Homer cyclist nabs national title in road race championship

a woman in a pink bike jersey
Kristen Faulkner. (EF Education-Cannondale)

Kristen Faulkner, 31, won this year’s Elite Women’s Road Race in West Virginia. She finished the 127-kilometer race in under three and a half hours, beating the next racer by almost a minute.

While she says she competed in sports her entire life, the Homer athlete began her cycling journey seven years ago in New York. Faulkner worked in the finance industry at the time and went to an introductory cycling clinic in Central Park.

“New York City’s this concrete jungle, and so my time in Central Park was really kind of my ‘me time’ every day to feel like I was in as much nature as I could get in Manhattan,” she said.

The next year, she moved to California and got more serious about cycling. After doing her first road race in Europe, Faulkner says she got hooked on professional racing and switched to competing full time.

“When I started cycling, I was working at a desk job, and I thought, you know, I could work a desk job for the next decade, or I could ride my bike outside for the next decade,” she said, “and I think being from Alaska and having such a passion for the outdoors, it was clear to me which one I really loved a lot more,” she said.

She now lives in Girona, Spain, which she says is the epicenter for cyclists.

At the end of last year, Faulkner joined EF Education-Cannondale, an American women’s professional cycling team. The team made a splash earlier this month by placing third overall at La Vuelta Femenina in Spain — one of three grand tours held each year for women. This year’s Vuelta is more than 880 kilometers and is split up into eight races, or stages.

Faulkner won the fourth stage. She says doing well at the Vuelta was especially important for her after getting hit by a car led her to develop a blood clot in her lung last year.

“I had to take three months off of riding, and I wasn’t sure how it’s going to come back,” she said, “and so to come back healthy and strong and be competing against, you know, the best in the world, and winning was a really exciting thing for me to have happen.”

Faulkner eventually began training indoors and even won a race at the end of the last season. She began this season becoming comfortable with racing again. Faulkner says recovering from the injury became more of a psychological journey than a physical one.

“I think emotionally, it was really hard for me to kind of trust cycling again, and trust that I could be safe and to really let myself go all out on these climbs, and especially on the distance,” she said.

As a national champion, Faulkner will be one of two athletes who can compete in road racing wearing a jersey with an American flag design for the next year. In addition to road racing, Faulkner is also one of nine athletes being considered for the U.S Olympic squad for women’s team pursuit — an indoor cycling event where teams of four race against each other on a track.

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