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SYDNEY, Australia (VN) — Kristen Faulkner is ending her season a little earlier than previously planned as she tries to recover from fatigue following a busy summer of racing punctuated by a COVID-19 infection.
Faulkner had been due to return to Europe to contest a handful of races following last week’s UCI Road World Championships, but she decided to pull out of them and return to the U.S. to begin her off-season.
The BikeExchange-Jayco rider said she wasn’t sure if her recent struggle with form was as a result of the COVID-19 infection she caught this summer or the time she took off the bike as a result.
“This is my last race of the season. I decided to give myself a really good reset and rest because I think my body just needs that,” Faulkner told VeloNews after the road race. “With my body the way it is right now, I don’t know if I would be able to give a great result in the last end of the season races so I think doing the full reset and recover will be better for me at this point.
“I definitely need to give myself a really long rest and reset and see the doctor and figure out what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s long COVID or if it’s just that I never really recovered, or I’m just not fit.”
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Faulkner was one of the outsiders for the women’s road race at the worlds last Saturday, along with her USA teammate Veronica Ewers. She started well but faded when the race hit the city center loops in Wollongong and eventually finished over 12 minutes down on the day’s winner Annemiek van Vleuten.
Had the climbs on the circuits been more sustained efforts, Faulkner believes she may have faired better but the punchy nature of the Wollongong loops was a challenge for her.
“Personally, I haven’t been feeling on super form these last few months. I felt really good on the first climb and then after a couple of times around the circuit, I just didn’t feel very good in the body. After I dropped off the front group, I just wanted to finish the race,” she said.
“I never really let my body recover from [COVID] and some days I feel great and some days I don’t. Overall, I just felt sometimes I have a hard time recovering in stage racing, and other times when it’s a really high intensity just catches me earlier than it did in the past. I just can’t do repeated high-intensity efforts the way that I could before.
“In the time trial or on a long, sustained climb I’m fine. On a course like this where there are repeated bursts, I don’t know if it’s long COVID or if it’s just that with the COVID I had to take such a long break to come back that I lost fitness. It’s unfortunate.”
It wasn’t all bad for Faulkner in Australia and she finished the world championships with a strong performance in the time trial, taking sixth at 1:26 behind the winner Ellen van Dijk. Faulkner rode her TT bike a lot in the buildup to the competition and she wants to work on it more ahead of the 2023 season.
“It was my first time doing a time trial at worlds and I actually feel really optimistic about future TTs,” she told VeloNews. “I changed my position to be more aero when I came here but it was a little less stable and I think that hurt me in the wind with the conditions being as they were. I think with a little bit of practice over the winter and nailing some of those details I think more TT experience will only help me.”
After a strong opener to the 2022 season that take three victories, including two stages of the Giro d’Italia Donne, the second half of the season has been a bit up and down for Faulkner. The Alaskan struggled through the Tour de France Femmes and had to abandon the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, citing issues with fatigue.
Despite ending her season on a slightly disappointing note at the world championships, she’s trying to look at the good and not dwell too much on the bad.
“I have to be a little bit compassionate with myself and not be so hard on myself when I have a bad day like today,” she said.
“I think when people are asking you ‘what happened today, did you not feel great,’ my first instinct is to judge my performance but I know that I gave what I could today and things haven’t been perfect in the second half and I just have to be able to roll with that and know that next year I want to come back really strong. I know what I can do when I’m strong, so this isn’t a reflection of my best self.”