Jennifer Purcell (MSU Cycling) is going for it this year, it being full on professional bike racing.
“I quit my job to race all summer. My career is waiting for me, I work in radiology and I’m getting another degree in radiology so I feel that I have a little time to do what I really love and that’s cycling.” said Purcell who is currently studying at Midwestern State University (MSU). “That’s what I’m spending the whole summer doing no matter what, I don’t care how I get there but I’m doing it.”
So far so good for the 32-year old. Earlier in May, she won the 2010 USA Cycling National Collegiate Criterium Championship in Wisconsin by taking the final corner first and holding it to the line for her first national title.
Purcell followed that up with top 10 finishes at the Bank of America Wilmington Grand Prix, the Kelly Cup and the Tour of Somerville. And then she came to St Francis Tulsa Tough, the 3-crits in 3-day event known for its aggressive racing, fun crowds and big purse. With the overall calculated a points omnium, only the finish placings of each criterium matter, not the cumulative time.
One against all in Tulsa. Riding without teammates, against full squads and very experienced solo riders, she had to meter her efforts.
“You just try to be smart and hope that other teams will chase and that you can jump on their wheels and they’ll give you a free ride and be ready for the next move.”
Challenges from not only other riders but from the heat, but she did have help from very experienced riders for the latter.
“Lots of water, electrolytes, staying inside, spun early in the morning.” Purcell explained her strategy to deal with the heat. “I’m staying with Laura Van Gilder [Mellow Mushroom] and Jen McRae [Chann McRae Coaching], so I feel like they were a good influence on me today making sure I wasn’t outside too long and they took care of me.”
Purcell followed the same strategy for the first two races of the St Francis Tulsa Tough, try to get in a break and if that didn’t work, rest and prepare for the bunch sprint.
“A couple of times I tried to get into the break and it didn’t quite work so last ten laps to go, I tried to catch my break.” explained Purcell after the first race, the flat-as-a-pancake Blue Dome Criterium.
With four laps to go, eventual winner Amanda Miller (TIBCO/To The Top) took a flyer and stuck to the line.
“I knew when it came down to the last three, I wanted to be first into the last corner, and I was I won the field sprint so that worked.” Purcell finished second.
The second race, the Brady Village Criterium, played out almost the same way. “I tried to get into a break, that got reeled back. I was a little nervous because that was with ten to go so I wasn’t sure how much I would have in the end.” said Purcell after the race.
It all came down to the final lap. “In the final lap, I can feel really tired throughout the race but somehow in the final lap the endorphins kick in, and I can usually go, go go as hard as I need to.”
As the field was making its way on the descent to the final left-hander before the finish, Cari Higgins (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12) jumped, started her sprint and held on the for the win.
Once again, Purcell finished second which put her in the lead of the omnium with one race to go.
“I was a little more timid, I was feeling little more tired and also trying to save it because I was working towards the overall and I didn’t want to gamble too much.” explained Purcell.
The final race brought more challenges with the difficult Riverview Criterium and its short punchy climb followed by rollers, swift descent and right turn to straightaway to start/finish line. Purcell was focusing mainly on the omnium win and watching her main competitors.
No attacks stuck in the 60-minute crit until around 11 laps to go when a break was initiated with the perfect combination for Purcell who quickly jumped on.
“That was ideal I thought, especially I could keep my eye on Christina [Gokey-Smith] and Laura [Van Gilder] who I was mostly watching for the omnium points and they were right there so I never had to worry too much. I was really racing for the overall today, of course in retrospect now I’m wishing I had gone for the win. I did a lot of work just to secure the break, that was really my focus today.”
Purcell spent time at the front of the move early on to make sure it was established. And it did stick, the seven riders in the break stayed together until the final laps. Purcell finished sixth in the race behind winner Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter Co TWENTY12).
Enough to win the overall. “It felt great,” smiled Purcell about the overall win, “I was a little nervous for a second, my math felt right but I was a little nervous until I heard it.”
With her omnium win, two second-place and sixth-place finishes, Purcell rode away with $4,610 (pre-tax) in prize money, not counting primes during the races.
“I’m probably going to use it for gas to go to bike races and airplane tickets and entry fees, any of the above.” said Purcell about her prize money.
“I love Tulsa, this is a great race.” she added.
Purcell will be racing free-lance this summer, with help from MSU Cycling and Edge Composite Wheels with fellow racer Nicky Wangsgard.
Her next race is the Nature Valley Grand Prix as part of the 2010 Fiber One Collegiate All-Stars Roster.