The overall win was within Lucinda Brand's grasp at the start of the day and she seized the opportunity to race for overall victory with both hands.
Lucinda left it all out of the road on stage four in Switzerland. After attacking early, she gave everything she had on the final climb of the day and, in the end, her hard work was rewarded with not just a second stage win but also the final yellow jersey of the race.
After the first of two intermediate bonus sprints, Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange – Jayco) had extended her advantage over Lucinda Brand slightly – from four to five seconds – but with everything still all to play for, the action was only just getting started.
Four riders initially attacked at the start of the long descent of the Wolfgangpass but with a teammate like Elisa Balsamo – the stage winner the day before – there to support her, there was no need to spend any extra energy stressing.
As soon as the rainbow jersey hit the front of the reduced bunch, the gap to attackers began to fall quickly and as soon as the catch was made Lucinda was perfectly poised to take control of her own destiny, powering away from the rest of the field alongside Jolanda Neff (Swiss Cycling).
The Dutch rider showed off her impressive bike handling skills on the slippery descent before deciding to forge ahead solo as the pair approached the foot of the final 5.6-kilometer climb up to the finish line.
Lucinda was 50 seconds clear of race leader on the early slopes of the ascent and just two seconds back on the General Classification after taking maximum bonus seconds at the second intermediate sprint. However, as the road continued to rise Faulkner closed in on Lucinda and the duo eventually headed under the flamme rouge together.
After sticking to the wheel of the yellow jersey, Lucinda made her move just after a sweeping left hand turn which marked the start of the very technical final 400 meters. Leading the way through the tight corners, Lucinda’s cyclo-cross skills shone through and played to her advantage, ultimately giving her a clear run into the line with just enough time to raise her hands to the grey and cloudy skies to celebrate.
Let’s hear from the Winner…
“This is a fantastic win and maybe it’s even better because I had to work really hard for it. When she [Faulkner] started to ride on the final climb, the time gap was going down so quickly and I was sure she would bridge across to me. When that happened I was just focusing on not being dropped by her as I knew how technical the finish was and I knew I a big advantage there. I just needed to hang on until the road flattened out and luckily it worked out perfectly for me.
“Right now, it’s hard to really describe how I am feeling because, of course, I am super happy but I am also really tired. It’s great to win the General Classification and like I said, I had to work hard for it. Actually, the whole team worked hard for it and it’s really great to finish it off like this for them.
“Overall, it’s been a wonderful race for us with three out of four stage wins and the overall win so I think it’s safe to say that I really liked this race. We started with a pretty short race on day one but, in the end, it was actually really tough so maybe the numbers looked easier than the race itself. There’s someone for everyone here and maybe they can make it longer later.”