National Championship Road Race
by Tayler Wiles (Lululemon)
The course for this year’s road race was pretty incredible. With 5-mile circuits around beautiful downtown Chattanooga and a 4km climb up Lookout Mountain, there was a little bit of everything adding up to some very exciting racing. Our race was full gas from the gun with teams fighting for an early break in the three circuits leading up to the climb. Despite constant attacks and very aggressive racing the group came to the climb altogether. Carmen picked up the pace leading into the climb launching Evie from the bottom. Evie’s attacked splintered the field with only a select group able to hold on. With 1km to the summit Evie attacked again with only Mara Abbott able to follow. The two of them made the descent together, eventually being caught by a small group of chasers. The group rolled along, but without many people willing to work the next chase group caught back on and an immediate attack came from NOW & Novaritis’ Robin Farina, which initiated the winning break.
As the break began to gain time, more time riders from the peloton bridged. The second time up the climb, the pace was controlled on the front by Exergy TWENTY16 rider Kristin McGrath as Evie attacked out of the chase group behind, bringing Mara with her. Just before the summit of the climb, Mara made contact with the front group, and after descending Lookout Mountain she made a brilliant attack and gained time quickly on the break. The front group consisted of two Optum riders (Jade Wilcoxson and Lauren Hall), four Exergy TWENTY16 riders (Mara [now up the road], Kristin McGrath, Jacklyn Crowell, and Andrea Dvorak), Amanda Miller from Tibco, Alison Powers from NOW & Novatis for MS, as well as Carmen Small and me (Specialized lululemon of course!)
With 3.5 circuits to go to the finish, things got really crazy. With Mara gaining more and more time, Jade and I both started attacking, riding hard on the front, and doing anything and everything possible to try to bridge up to Mara. Eventually, Jade put in a perfect attack and was able to break away from our group and make contact with Mara. Mara had a very unfortunate mechanical, forcing her to stop, and inevitably lose her lead with Jade. Jade was up the road on her own with just a little over two laps to go. I continued to attack in an attempt to bridge to Jade, but couldn’t distance myself from the group. Kristen McGrath put in a good attack in the last km of the second-to-last circuit (I believe, it’s all a bit fuzzy now) and was able to make contact with Jade. Both Exergy and Optum had riders up the road. Powers and Miller were on their own so it was up to Carmen and me to pull them back.
Carmen is our sprinter so we wanted to save her for the finish and use me to bring the two girls back. I went to the front, put my head down, and rode as hard as my legs would let me for the last few laps. We got within ten seconds of Wilcoxson and McGrath at one point, but my legs just couldn’t go any faster. With the gap coming down, Jade made the game winning move, attacking McGrath and soloing in for an amazing win. It was a hard day on the bike, but one that I can honestly say I put my whole heart into. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for our team, but I cannot think of a more deserving national champion than Jade Wilcoxson. She will carry those stars and stripes like a champ!