Kristen Faulkner secures victory at USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships

The elite women faced a gruelling 127 kilometres at the USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships in Charleston, West Virginia, featuring two significant climbs in each of the six laps. The race saw a series of aggressive moves from the outset, with teams like Cynisca and EF Education-Cannondale setting a brisk pace that steadily whittled down the peloton.

Early attacks came from riders such as Taylor Kuyk-White and Allison Mrugal on the second lap, Laurel Quinones on the third lap, and Heidi Franz en route to the start of lap five. Franz managed to open the biggest gap, gaining 1:15 before being caught on the first climb of the lap by a group that included Kristen Faulkner and Coryn Labecki, Nicole Steinmetz and Lauren Stephens, and Ruth Edwards.

As the race progressed, Faulkner, Edwards, Labecki, and Stephens pulled away on the penultimate lap’s second climb, forming a quartet that would prove decisive. Faulkner made a move on the descent heading into the final lap, taking Edwards with her. The pair quickly built a substantial lead, while the chase group, including Steinmetz, Stephens, and De Crescenzo, struggled to close the gap.

Faulkner’s decisive attack came on the final climb, allowing her to solo to her first elite national championship title. “I knew I had a really good shot, and I didn’t want to take Edwards to the line because she has a pretty good kick,” Faulkner said. “I haven’t sprinted in a really long time, so as long as I didn’t take her to the line, I was good.”

Ruth Edwards secured second place, finishing 56 seconds behind Faulkner. “The race was super hard, and I didn’t know where I would end up; I just had to keep suffering on the climbs,” Edwards said. “Kristen and I attacked on the downhill and quickly it was just the two of us. I knew she would attack me on the last lap, so I did everything to keep suffering but, in the end, I couldn’t quite hold the wheel on the final climb.”

Coryn Labecki finished third, ensuring a strong result for EF Education-Cannondale. Labecki’s role in the final stages was crucial in discouraging the chase, neutralising pre-race favourite Lauren Stephens. “We got a podium sandwich going, so we’re happy with the weekend, and I think it was good teamwork today,” Labecki commented.

Nicole Steinmetz, who finished sixth and was the top under-23 rider, reflected on her performance. “It feels amazing,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier. It would not be possible without every single person who rode today on our team and all the staff and everything. It’s just amazing.”

Kristen Faulkner’s victory marked a significant milestone in her season, adding to her successes in the Omloop van het Hageland, the Trofeo Ponente in Rosa, and La Vuelta Femenina. “It feels great. It feels like a culmination of a lot of work and a really good season so far this year,” Faulkner said. “We’re an American team, and to have the American jerseys is really special. I’ve never had it before. I kind of like the pink, but if there’s one thing better than pink, it’s probably the stars and stripes.”

The race also highlighted the challenges for riders seeking Olympic selection. Faulkner, who narrowly missed an automatic bid for the Paris Olympics in the individual time trial, remains focused on her goal. “I’d like to go for either track or roads. So just one thing at a time right now,” Faulkner said. She is preparing for a track camp in Belgium with the Team Pursuit squad, hoping to secure a spot for Paris 2024.

2024 USA National Road Race Championship Women result

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