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The 2022 Giro d’Italia Donne kicked off with a prologue in Cagliari today, and even though all eyes were on the likes of Annemiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos, it was the Australian team BikeExchange-Jayco that stole the show, and the maglia rosa, in Sardinia.
A 4.7km prologue kicked off proceedings, and it provides an interesting contrast with the team time trials of previous years. It leaves the following stages intriguingly poised, with a few seconds difference already separating the key riders in the GC. It should lend a little more nuance to the competition, but it also lends added significance to Kristen Faulkner’s stage winning performance, as her team take control of the race.
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The Australian team have made no secret of the focus they’ve placed on improving their time trial performance on both the men’s and women’s side, and this was reflected in their strong showing in the prologue. Georgia Baker set the fastest time early on in the day, and remained in pole position until she was unseated by her teammate Faulkner, who shaved three seconds off of the Australian’s time.
An assured performance from veteran Amanda Spratt rounded out a successful day for the team. Just 10 days previously, Faulkner rode to victory in the individual time trial in Vaduz at the Tour de Suisse.
Faulkner, 29, may not have been the name at the top of the list of favorites in all the race previews, but one look at her results so far this season might suggest that Movistar, SD Worx and FDJ would be wise not to underestimate her. With a steady build in terms of form following her return to the road in May, Faulkner’s best result of the season came just a couple of weeks ago at the Tour de Suisse, where in addition to her ITT win she finished in second spot on GC. This followed third place at Itzulia, 13th at Vuelta a Burgos and 7th at the Women’s Tour.
The progression suggests that she is peaking at the perfect time, as the two landmark stage races of the year get underway.
With the race organization seemingly learning from last year’s mistakes, in which a mountain stage on day two effectively ended the general classification as a contest, there is every possibility that Faulkner can hold on to the maglia rosa for at least the first few days. This year, a more balanced route features consecutive flat stages and chances for the sprinters, before the peloton heads back to mainland Italy and into the hills.
However, with a strong and versatile squad behind her, if Faulkner can hang onto the pink jersey into the mountains, with her proven climbing prowess she could be more than capable of challenging the more high profile candidates for overall victory. With a stage win under their belts already, for Team BikeExchange-Jayco it looks set to be a Giro d’Italia Donne that far exceeds last year’s performance, when their best-placed rider on GC was Ane Santesteban in 32nd position.