Jade Wilcoxson (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) has had a successful year for any professional rider, let alone a neo-pro rider. After only a couple of years racing in the amateur ranks, Wilcoxson signed with her very first professional team. She wasted little time in making her presence known.
She won the overall classification and green jersey at the Joe Martin Stage Race in April. She was invited and placed third in the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Invitational Time Trial. She finished behind Kristin Amrstrong (Exergy TWENTY 12) and Alison Powers (NOW and Novartis for MS). Wilcoxson followed that with a third in the overall classification and the QOM jersey at the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June. She then won the overall classification at the Tour of Elk Grove. She finished the 2012 USA Cycling Women’s National Racing Calendar (NRC) ranked in third behind winner and fellow team mate Carmen Small and Powers.
Quite the 2012 season.
“I think I am as much surprised as everybody with the type of season I am having,” commented Wilcoxson. “Last year I was working and training and racing. That was really hard and stressful. I knew if I had a year to be a full-time pro, and not work at my job, that I would grow as a cyclist. I was hoping that I would get better results, but you never really know for sure what the effect the other stuff in your life has on your cycling. I was definitely hoping for a better season this year. I don’t think any of us were expecting the season to go this well.”
“Definitely, one of the biggest factors in my success this year is my coach, Kendra Wenzel,” added Wilcoxson. “She saw a lot of potential in me three years ago when she started coaching me and has laid a great foundation for me to continue to grow as a cyclist. I definitely owe a lot of my success to her.”
“My goals coming into the season was to have fun with racing and to be a great team mate. I wanted to help the team as much as I could. I am happy to achieve that. Everything else that happened to me was a bonus.”
Wilcoxson winning ways began at the Joe Martin Stage Race. On a technical criterium course, she was able to make up a 46 second deficit and win the overall by 2 seconds. It was her first NRC win.
“I was definitely shocked. I won it on the last day. I got in the break in the crit, which had a steep climb, which is generally good for me. I then rode away from the break. The whole time I thought it was unbelievable. To get the overall win was pretty exciting.”
When asked what was the biggest lesson learned in her first year as professional, she emphasized the need to grasp the concept of team tactics.
“There is so much to learn and so many different scenarios. I did not grow up on my bike. I did not grow up watching cycling on TV. I just started racing four years ago. A lot of things that are considered no-brainers for riders growing up with cycling, I have to learn. The learning curve is bigger for me. My team has been so patient with me. Some lessons I have learned the hard way, by making mistakes. My team has really allowed me time to learn. The biggest lesson this season was simply how to get a grasp on how the peloton functions. Learning from the strong riders on my team has helped me grow as a cyclist. I have an amazing group surrounding me.”
Team tactics played a big role in Wilcoxson’s win at the Tour of Elk Grove.
“I have never done a flat stage race. I didn’t know how I would do. Going into the last day, our team went with a plan and we were able to accomplish everything we needed to do. The pressure was on my team to finish on the podium. The team worked flawlessly. It was cool for me to have the team ride for me and I was able to put into play all of the tactics I have learned. There was a moment when I felt good about the racing and felt I have learned a lot. For the team to ride as well as it did and get the time to win the overall was pretty cool. I think the overall win at Elk Grove was the highlight of my season.”
With a strong 2012 winding down, it will be exciting to see the next set of wins Wilcoxson will have in 2013.
“I would love to race in Europe next. It is definitely on my radar. The girls racing in Europe come back very strong and with better skills. I would love to have that opportunity and hope to next year.”
“I want to push my cycling until I feel like I reached a plateau. I want to take things as far as I can. When I reach my potential I’ll think about doing something else but I am not there and still have several years of growth before I reach that.”