Here, Jade Wilcoxson had the cyclocross race of her life, catching and outsprinting Nicole Duke for second at the 2013 National Championships © Meg McMahon
by Molly Hurford
Some racers we talk to have been taking some down time after a long cyclocross season: a road race here, a mountain bike stage there, but ultimately, they’re taking it easy. And then there are the racers who manage to pull off great results during cyclocross season, even though it isn’t their main focus, and are already back in full-time racing mode starting in March. Jade Wilcoxson, with her second place at Nationals and mid-pack finish at Worlds in her first real year of cyclocross racing, is one of those racers, and instead of taking some downtime after Worlds, she got right back on the saddle (pun emphatically intended) and started on her road racing campaign.
So far this season, she took fourth in the Tour of California Women’s Time Trial, fifth in the time trial at road nationals, and the win in the nationals road race that same weekend. For anyone who may have questioned Wilcoxson’s talent as a multi-discipline cyclist, the answer is clear. The only worry now is, will Wilcoxson be back to the knobby tires in the fall? I finally managed to get on the phone to chat about her season so far, what’s next, cyclocross, and our dream vacations.
“I had a great weekend, it couldn’t have gone better!” she told me as I congratulated her on her win at US Road Nationals. “I’m still pretty shocked. I keep replaying things in my head and can’t believe how everything turned out.”
She went on to explain a bit about the race and how it played out. “We were hitting it hard from the gun, there were attacks going off from all sides. It made the race really animated and really fun to watch. I was really happy it ended up that way, I’ve had so many people comment on how exciting it was to watch a women’s race, and I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s exciting every time. That’s just how we race but you never get to see it.’”
“Our plan was to cover attacks, the team did a great job with that. And when we hit the climb, Jenelle, Lauren and I were together with a group of 8-10 riders and it was all blowing up behind us. We came back into town, and we all just turned ourselves inside out. We ended up with about eight riders and kept that; Janelle worked the group pretty hard while I sat on and waited for the climb. We hit the climb again and just climbed steady, and the hard hitters like Kristen McGrath and Carmen Small were all there, and after the climb, Lauren was still with us and we knew it would come down to a sprint. We decided Lauren should sit on and I should work for her. Back in town, we had three circuits to do and I started working for Lauren. There was a two-person attack and I tried to reel it back in, and then I was on the front and no one was doing any work. I decided instead of reeling them in, I would attack and bridge up to her. I was 10 seconds off when she had a mechanical, and I went straight by her and then I was off the front by myself. After a lap, McGrath bridged up to me and we started working together, taking pulls. At one point we had about a minute on the peloton and that time was coming back down. With one lap to go, I didn’t hear this but my director said we were down to only six seconds. We hit a couple corners pretty hard, stretched it to 15 seconds, but with half a lap, it was down to 10 seconds with three kilometers left. So I decided to attack, and fortunately she couldn’t hold my wheel. I just put it all out there. I figured Lauren was in the group and had the best sprint, so if I give it all up and blow up, Lauren will take the win, and if I didn’t, I would take the win. And it worked out for me this time.”
With that win in the books, it’s time for Wilcoxson to turn her attention to the rest of the summer, which has already almost completely filled up.
“I still haven’t really had a break. I was supposed to take one after Nature Valley, but I got the invite from the National team, to ride the women’s Giro. So instead of a break, I’ll be racing the hardest stage race of my life in Italy!”
She laughed. “Since the end of road season last year, my coach plans things out, like my fall rest period, but I was like, ‘No, can I do ’cross?’ and she said it wasn’t ideal but we could make it work. Then I did that, and then asked if I could do Worlds, and she said it would be really hard to stretch it out but you can’t pass up that opportunity, so we did Worlds. Then after Worlds, it was like, ‘Can I race the Spring Classics,’ and she was like, ‘Ahh, you’re killing me!’”
“She told me I had to take a break after Nature Valley, that I couldn’t keep going. And then the Giro came up and she’s like, ‘Dammit!’”
Wilcoxson doesn’t slow down after the Giro though, she heads to Cascade Classic, her “local race.” And after that, she says, “the sage continues.” So the first week in August is set to be Wilcoxson’s first real break in 20 months.
When I ask if taking a break will be hard though, Wilcoxson is the first to admit that she has a laid-back attitude on vacation, despite her obvious desire to stay racing. “I might be the best person I know at not touching my bike. There are so many other things in this world that I’d love to do that when I actually get a break, I don’t want to look at my bike or think about my bike. When my breaks are over, I always want to stretch it out. It’s kind of funny that the season keeps dragging out, because I’m so not that person who’s addicted to cycling. I’m terrible at training! I hate training, I just do it so I can race.”
And as for the topic of vacation, Wilcoxson adds, “It always sounds like a good idea to travel with athletes, but then you get somewhere and they always want to do stuff! They want to go on hikes, rent bikes, and I’m like, ‘No! I’m just going to sit here. I’m not leaving this towel for the rest of the week.’”
So what about cyclocross? “We’re still working out the details. Ultimately it’ll depend on how I feel at the end of this season, if I’m burned out and hitting the wall …”
That said, Wilcoxson doesn’t imagine slowing down anytime soon. She told me about her conversations with her other teammates: “We talk about this all the time. This is such a fun time in our lives, how are we ever going to be able to walk away from it and go back to a normal life?”