Jade Wilcoxson of Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies solidified her status as one of America’s top racers today at the USPRO National Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee, winning the USPRO Road Race championship, the crown jewel of one-day racing in America.
The race grants Jade (joining Tom Zirbel in stars and stripes, who won the national championship in the time trial discipline on Friday) the right to wear the prestigious red white and blue jersey for the coming year. A hard fought and tactically brilliant effort captured Wilcoxson and her teammates the championship. It was the first time the women’s national championship race has ran concurrently to the mens, with an equal portion of prize money at stake. It was a meaningful victory for Wilcoxson and her teammates.
“The entire team worked from the start of this race – every single person on the team worked their butt off to get this win,” said Wilcoxoson. “Everyone followed the plan to a tee and did everything they could in this race. That is the only reason I ended up with this jersey.”
Teammate Lauren Hall, who guided Wilcoxson along with the rest of her Optum p/b KBS teammates, bested the competition to win the sprint for second in claiming the Optum p/b KBS themed podium.
The race, which encompassed two ascents up Chattanooga’s steep Lookout Mountain, was an incredibly difficult course. Hall knew the Optum p/b KBS women, including the former National Racing Calendar champion, Janel Holcomb, would stay intact throughout.
“There was a moment before the second climb when Janel, Jade and I were all together,” said Hall. “That was when I realized we were going to have a good day. We were well represented, we were well organized, we talked to Rachel (Heal Performance Director), we believed in each other, and we trusted each other. It was kind of funny because all of us were debating about who should work for who.”
In the race’s approach to the finish line, Wilcoxson saw an opportunity that could not be avoided.
“Mara Abbott (Exergy-Twenty16) was off the front, and I decided to bridge the gap,” said Wilcoxson. “Mara had an untimely flat, and I rode past her during her acceleration. Kristin McGrath (Team Tibco) joined me in the chase, and we passed Mara. It became clear the race would come down to us two.”
Wilcoxson and McGrath rode together over the closing kilometers, and McGrath attacked Wilcoxson in an attempt to win the race.
“Kristin (McGrath) attacked me and I just paced myself, staying on her wheel. As I caught up to her, I saw the opportunity arise,” said Wilcoxson.
Wilcoxson countered the attack to maximum effect. She rode the final meters solo, crossing the finish line alone. She had no intention to claim the national championship. As someone diagnosed pre-diabetic just six years prior, the meteoric ascent to the best road racer in America still makes Wilcoxson giddy.
“It’s crazy. It was never my plan, never on my radar to get to this place. A lot of hard work, and the people that I have surrounded myself with, made this happen. From my coach, to Rachel (Heal), to my teammates, it all comes from the help. I really think that when you surround yourself with good people, good things happen to you.”
Lauren Hall claimed the silver medal outlasting sprint rival, Alison Powers to the line, as the pair escaped the remaining chasers in the closing miles.
Two stars and stripes jerseys, for Zirbel and Wilcoxson, are on short order heading into the UCI 1.2 ranked Philly Cycling Classic this weekend and at Optum’s hometown Nature Valley Grand Prix event in June.