Women’s professional cycling has reached a tipping point, enjoying rapid gains in popularity, media coverage, and parity in pay. With the first multi-day women’s Tour De France a week away, spectators will be awed by the fast pace, the competitive rivalries and raw talent of the world’s greatest female cyclists.
Alaskans have another reason to tune in: Kristen Faulkner from Homer is competing on Team Bike Exchange and by every measure is a serious contender for a podium finish.
Two years ago, no women’s World Tour cycling events were televised, and even the world’s greats could barely eke out a living from the sport. By contrast, men’s events were all televised and the top 20 male cyclists made over $1 million annually. This year’s Tour De France signals a welcomed change for women sports everywhere, as live coverage will be available and winner’s purses—while a fraction of men’s—are ticking up.
In 2020, Faulkner was in Silicon Valley working venture capital, juggling a career and a passion to plunge into professional cycling full time. US based Team Tibco offered her a shot at the European pro circuit in 2020 and a few months later Faulkner miraculously secured a first place finish on Stage 4 of the Tour Cycliste Feminin Internationa de l’Ardeche.
Today, on the eve of the Tour De France, Faulkner has compiled an impressive string of victories and is ranked 14th in the world in UCI points standing.
The two most recent World Tour women’s races frame Faulkner’s rapid trajectory into the top echelon of elite cyclists, where she won four separate stages against Olympic medalists and national champions such as Marianna Vos, Lambo Borgini and Annamick Van Vleuten.
Faulkner won the opening time trial (Stage One) of the Tour D’Suisse by over a minute, grabbing the yellow jersey. On the final mountain stage of that Tour, she mounted an impressive solo attack against lead rider Lucinda Brand, gaining over 3 minutes in the final 4k of a Class 2 climb to overcome the leader, only to slide out on a rain-slicked hairpin turn with barely 500 meters to go. She grabbed a second place on that stage, and finished second in the overall general classification (GC) standings.
A week after Tour D’Suisse, Faulkner repeated her time trial victory at the opening stage of the famed Giro de’Italia Donne, and the cycling world took notice. Four days later, after a 50k solo leadout, Faulkner finished an impressive 4thplace, then came bouncing back the next day in a repeat breakaway to take a first place finish in the mountain stage, securing enough points to secure the “Queen of the Mountain” jersey.
Alaskans wishing to following the action can follow Kristen on Instagram at “@arcticfaulks.com. or her team at https://www.greenedgecycling.com/team/kristen-faulkner/.
Her biking resume is available at https://www.procyclingstats.com/rider/kristen-faulkner/2022.
She will be the guest on the Must Read Alaska Show podcast on July 19.