Women's Tour de Suisse: A Few Key GC Takeaways
Breaking down a few key takeaways from the thrilling final stage at the Women's Tour de Suisse & what it tells us about the upcoming Women's Tour de France
Lucinda Brand wrapped up an impressive overall win at the Women’s Tour de Suisse on Monday after forging clear on the final climb and deftly holding off a surging Kristen Faulkner. Despite losing significant time in the stage 2 time trial, Brand collected enough time bonus seconds and used superior positioning heading into the sharp final corner of the final stage’s mountaintop finish to hold off Faulkner, who had ridden away from the chase group solo to catch Brand inside the final two kilometers.
With the inaugural edition of the Women’s Tour de France just over a month away, this win from Brand, and breakout performance from Faulkner, showed us that we should expect a deep and competitive field when we get to late July.
Tour de Suisse Stage 4 Notes:
13.8km: With Faulkner being the better climber, 2nd place overall Lucinda Brand needs to get clear before the final climb and build up a cushion. She gets clear with Olympic mountain bike champion Jolanda Neff, whose elite bike handling skills are allowing them to pull out a gap through the twisty, slightly downhill sections.
5km: Brand forges clear on the climb and holds an impressive 45-second lead with just 5km left to race.
4.4km: The chase group cuts the lead down 37-seconds in roughly .5kms, with Faulkner pushing along in her trademark steady style.
2.6km: Faulkner, sensing the race is slipping away, increases the pace, drops the rest of the group, and sets off in pursuit of Brand. Unfortunately, her jersey is stuck open in the worst possible position, with the zipper too far down for her to easily zip it back up but not all the way open, which means it is acting as a parachute.
1.3km: She successfully closes down the 22-second gap to Brand in just over a kilometer with her powerful, seated climbing style. When she finally makes contact, she has a few moments to blow by Brand and attempt to wedge open a gap, but her speed isn’t high enough and she doesn’t go all the way over to the other side of the road, which allows Brand to swing over and settle into her draft.
150m: Since Brand is only 2-second back in the GC, all she has to do is finish ahead of Faulkner to win the GC (the gap between the 1st and 2nd time bonuses is 4-seconds). Knowing this, she camps out on Faulkner’s wheel and recharges as they approach the finish. Coming into the final corner, she smartly gets into the lead, knowing the first rider to get into the final sharp corner will likely win the race.
In a key moment, Brand drifts over to the left-hand side of the road, while Faulkner stays on the right.
When we look at the overhead coming into the final corner, Faulkner is still stuck on the left-hand side of the road, while Brand has the much better line over on the right. It is clear that Faulkner won’t make the upcoming corner.
100m: When the two riders exit the apex of the turn, Brand is able to get through cleanly due to her superior position, while Faulkner slides out due to having to put more pressure on her tires to compensate for her poor entry angle.
Faulkner would get up and follow Brand over the line 15-second in arrears and seal 2nd place overall behind Brand and ahead of Pauliena Rooijakkers.
Stage Top 3:
1) Lucinda Brand +0
2) Kristen Faulkner +15
3) Pauliena Rooijakkers +15
1) Lucinda Brand +0
2) Kristen Faulkner +17
3) Pauliena Rooijakkers +1’19
1) Brand wasn’t as strong as Faulkner, but won the GC due to superior race craft
The tale of the time bonuses tells us the difference in this race: 26-seconds for Brand and 7 for Faulkner. Picking this up with her savvy racing allowed Brand to complete due course slower than Faulkner and still win the race overall (the 19-second delta in bonus seconds is larger than Brand’s margin of victory even taking Faulkner’s crash into account).
Brand lost over a minute to Faulkner in the stage 2 TT and was mowed down by the race leader on the race’s biggest climb, but was able to take the overall win due to her savvy breakdown win on stage 1 and compiling time bonus seconds.
Most impressively, Brand knew she couldn’t hang with Faulkner over the entire final climb and showed an impressive presence of mind to get clear before they hit the slopes.
And by holding Faulkner off until the final 1.5kms, she ensured that all she had to do was sit on her wheel over a relatively shallow final kilometer and win the sprint to take the overall win. This sounds easy enough, but in reality, is incredibly difficult to execute.
2) Faulkner gets the biggest result of her young career & shows she has elite power to weight climbing numbers
To win the overall, Faulkner needed to either get clear with Brand, or limit the gap to ensure she caught her far earlier on the climb, which would have allowed her to drop Brand and come into the finish solo.
But, setting aside Faulkner’s final climb errors, her ride at Suisse netted her the best result of her career so far and signaled that she could be a bonafide crossover one-day/stage racing star.
While it was also clear that she would be able to turn into a time trial star due to her rowing background, massive watts (she averaged 324 watts for 20-minutes while in pursuit of Brand on the final climb, which works out to roughly 5.3 watts per kilos, which is incredibly impressive) and steady-state riding style, her climbing ability is a bit of a revelation. Closing down Brand’s 20+ second gap over the course of a single kilometer was an incredibly impressive physical performance that indicates she could be an all-around star of the future.
3) Faulkner’s world-class power numbers mean she can challenge the established favorites at the upcoming Women’s Tour de France
With her ability to generate world-class watts and rapid development of her race craft, Faulkner will likely be a key addition to the elite stratosphere of Women’s racing and will challenge the established class of Women climbers like Annemiek van Vleuten, Demi Vollering, and Ashleigh Moolman.