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Kristen Faulkner’s long-range attack rewarded as BikeExchange-Jayco loses overall hope at Giro d’Italia Donne

GC leader Amanda Spratt did not start stage after positive COVID test.

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Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) finished fourth on stage 7 of the Giro d’Italia Donne after spending much of the day solo as her team readjusted their ambitions going into the final weekend of racing.

BikeExchange-Jayco’s leader Amanda Spratt had been sitting at fifth overall Friday morning, but was forced to leave the stage ahead of stage 7 after testing positive for COVID-19. Her teammate Georgia Baker also pulled out as a close contact of Spratt.

After winning the prologue in Sardinia, Faulkner was on domestique duty for Spratt, who has been climbing well after recovering from iliac artery surgery.

With Spratt out of the race, however, Faulkner was given freedom to attack on stage 7.

“I think it was a great day,” the American said at the finish. “We went away on the first climb which was the plan. It was hard staying out solo all day, but we gave it our best. On that last climb, I was racing for Spratty and Georgia who weren’t able to start today.”

Also read: From venture capitalist to professional cyclist: The rise and rise of Kristen Faulkner

After over 30km solo, Faulkner was caught by stage winner Annemiek van Vleuten on the final climb. She initially was able to hold onto the pink jersey’s wheel, but soon slipped back and joined Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo) over the top of the climb.

“Elisa is a faster descender than me, so I tried to hang with her wheel but she got me at the very end,” Faulkner said. “But it was a fight the whole way. It was a hard day and a good fight and I’m always down for a good effort so I gave it everything I could.”

Faulkner’s efforts saw her move up 12 places on GC, now sitting in 13th but still nearly 20 minutes down on the leader. A move into the top-10 may be possible, but it looks as though BikeExchange-Jayco’s overall ambitions may have left with Spratt.

The former stage winner had been hoping to improve her position as the race headed into the mountains.

“I felt a bit off in the stage yesterday and woke up this morning not feeling well. A test confirmed positive for COVID,” Spratt said in a Tweet on Friday morning. “So sad and disappointed when my favorite stages were finally here.”

The Australian will now head home and hope to recover ahead of the Tour de France Femmes at the end of the month.