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Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) took the stage 4 victory and the overall title at the Tour de Suisse.
Brand led overnight leader Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) into the last 200 metres of the summit finish in a two-up sprint, but the American slid out and crashed in the final bend. She got up and crossed the line 15 seconds back, losing both the stage and the overall title.
Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) finished third.
Brand won the Tour de Suisse by 17 seconds ahead of Faulkner and 1:19 ahead of third-placed overall Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM Racing).
“It is fantastic [to win],” Brand said. “I’m just super happy, also very tired. It’s just great to win a GC. I had to work for it, we had to work hard for it, so it is great to finish it off.”
How it unfolded
The final stage of the Tour de Suisse Women brought a challenging 98.5km between Chur and a summit finish at Lantsch/Lenz. A mid-race climb over the Wolfgangpass, 6.6km at 6.8%, peaked at 55km followed by a lengthy descent into a smaller 1.7km climb, and then another descent straight into the final 6km climb to the finish.
The peloton remained largely intact as the race reached the base of Wolfgangpass, however, as the roads steepened groups of riders were distanced from the ever-reduced main field.
Sina Frei (Swiss) was the first rider to disrupt the steady pace with an attack partway up the ascent. Although she briefly gained a few seconds, it wasn’t enough and she was pulled back into the field with a kilometer to the top.
Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM Racing) took full points over the top and then a group of four emerged that included Victorie Guilman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Amber Kraak (Team Jumbo-Visma), Valerie Demey (Liv Racing Xstra) and Alessandra Keller (Swiss).
Faulkner finished third, behind Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) and Soraya Paladin (Canyon-SRAM), and gained one time second bonus, increasing her advantage over Brand to 5 seconds in the overall classification.
A sharp peloton descended as the sky opened up to rain that made the roads much more slippery – the breakaway pulled back into the mix.
As they reached the smaller ascent with 20km to go, Balsamo set a fast pace over the top for her Trek-Segafredo teammate and runner-up overall brand, and down into the next sprint for time bonuses.
Brand and Joland Neff (Swiss) attacked on the descent and opened a small gap on the small field that included Faulkner. The pair gained 30 seconds on the chasing field, and Brand took 3 time bonus seconds in Albula, which meant she was now only two seconds behind Faulkner in the overall classification.
Brand and Neff pressed on with their gap opening to 50 seconds and Faulkner was left to do the much of chasing on her own with 6km to go and into the base of the last climb. Canyon-SRAM came to the front on the ascent to help set the pace for their GC rider Rooijakkers.
Brand disanced Neff with 5.5km to go and the Swiss rider was swept up by a select group of climbs that included Faulkner, Rooijakkers and Floortje Mackaij (Team DSM).
Brand’s lead faded from 50 seconds to under 30 with 4km to go as Faulkner and Rooijakkers desperately tried to close the gap. Faulkner measured her effort as she distanced Rooijakkers in quick pursuit of Brand.
Under the pouring rain and with a remarkable show of strength, Faulkner closed the gap to brand with 1.2km to the top.
The pair raced into the final twists and turns of the last 200 metres, Brand leading them into the final bend where Faulkner slipped out and crashed to the pavement.
Brand crossed the line with the victory and the overall GC as Faulkner got up and finished in second place, 15 second down.
“When Kristen started to ride and the time went down so quickly, I was almost sure that she would come back,” Brand said. “I was focused on not being dropped. I knew how technical the finish line was, so I knew that I had a bigger advantage and I just needed to hang on until the roads got more flat. Luckily it out.”
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