Jessica Phillips (Lip Smackers) returned to bike racing after a four year absence with the kind of goals that some might call lofty. Her hard work and determination paid off however when she was crowned the 2009 United States of America Time Trial Champion on Friday.
“I’m so thrilled I can’t even tell you,” said Phillips. “You read about people who quit and come back strong and I really wanted to be one of those people who dedicated their year to pulling off something like this. I couldn’t be more happy.”
She is no stranger to the stars and stripes jersey, having won the Elite women’s road race in 2002. She went on to compete for high profile teams like American-based team Saturn in 2003 and then German-based team Nurenberger in 2004. However the rising star packed up and walked away from bike racing mid-season without notice.
“I wasn’t happy like a lot of people when they go to Europe because it’s a hard experience for whatever reason,” said Phillips. “I felt like I just gave up. I left Nurenberger straight from a race and didn’t come back, I just quit.
“I have always felt in the back of my mind that I was a quiter,” she added. “I was never happy with the decision I made to leave and I wasn’t going to be happy until I came back and gave it a real shot again.”
During her four years away from the cycling scene, Phillips dabbled in skiing coaching, she was the manager of a restaurant and even tried graduate school. However nothing seemed to keep her attention. “I had this shadow over me, a dark place where I knew I wanted to still bike race and I wasn’t 100-percent into any of those other things,” she said.
In her first year back Phillips came into the championships event in top form, having won the Cascade Cycling Classic stage four time trial a few days prior. The 35 kilometre course mimicked stage race course with the addition of a final loop before the finish line.
“I was really nervous all day,” she said. “I was hoping for a top five, but after I won Cascade last week I thought I could actually win.”
Her time of 50:35 minutes beat bike racing new comer Evelyn Stevens (CRCA) by a mere second. Defending champion Alison Powers (Team Type 1) placed third with a time of 50:58 minutes.