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Giro Rosa start too risky for US champion Wilcoxson

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Jade Wilcoxson (Optum) had a rough day but still made it on the podium.

Jade Wilcoxson (Optum) had a rough day but still made it on the podium. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Briana Walle climbed into fourth position in the opening time trial, the top finish for the Optum team.

Briana Walle climbed into fourth position in the opening time trial, the top finish for the Optum team. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)
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Jade Wilcoxson (Optum) on the front on the climb.

Jade Wilcoxson (Optum) on the front on the climb. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)
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Brianna Walle (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) on her way to a 4th place finish.

Brianna Walle (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) on her way to a 4th place finish. (Image credit: Brian Hodes)

US professional road race champion Jade Wilcoxson's crash in the final corner of the final stage at the Nature Valley Grand Prix last week cost her more than the overall win at the Minnesota race. A fractured radial bone above her left wrist will keep her off the bike for at least a week and prevent her from starting the Giro Rosa on June 30 with the USA Cycling National Team.

Doctors in Minnesota operated on Wilcoxson's arm less than 24 hours after the crash and repaired it with a plate and several screws, and the recovery is going well so far.

"I took pain meds for 24 hours and then stopped just to see what the pain would be like, but I've never had any," Wilcoxson told Cyclingnews Saturday from her home in Talent, Oregon.

Wilcoxson also said the doctors in Minnesota actually told her she could start the women's Giro, but it would be a big risk because a crash could force another surgery and further complicate her recovery. The 35-year-old Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies rider said she plans on returning to racing in time for the Cascade Cycling Classic in mid-July.

The US pro champion took the Nature Valley yellow jersey on stage 2 and held it into the final corner on the last day, when she swung wide and crashed into a course barrier. TIBCO-To the Top's Shelley Olds, the 2010 overall winner at Nature Valley, took the overall win following the crash.

The unlucky break for Wilcoxson turned into an opportunity for her Optum teammate and fellow Oregonian Brianna Walle, however, as the first-year pro got the call up for the Italian race in Wilcoxson's stead. Walle said USA Cycling national team manager Jack Seehafer contacted her by telephone and asked if she wanted to go to the Giro.

"I said, 'Uh, Sure!'" Walle recalled.

But the unscheduled trip also meant that Walle, who still averages 32 hours a week at her job with Yakima in Portland, would lose considerable wages and possibly her health coverage if her average hours dipped too low.

So – at the urging of a friend – she started a campaign with the goal of raising $1,500 to pay for some uncovered trip expenses and to help make COBRA payments so she could maintain health insurance. The online fundraiser brought in more than $2,000 in less than 24 hours.

"I thought maybe we would reach the goal or close to it," Walle said of the fundraiser. "I had no idea we would surpass it. It just shows how much support there is out there for cycling, especially women's cycling."

Now Walle is putting in extra time at work while preparing for what will be the biggest race of her career so far, all while knowing that her trip to Italy will be bittersweet.

"I'm going in place of Jade, and I know she really targeted this race," Walle said. "But we're happy it's staying within the family."

Wilcoxson won't be resting too long while Walle and the others are competing in Italy. She said she'll shift her priorities now and focus on the world championships in Florence, Italy, at the end of the season. Although her nationals win did not guarantee her a spot on the US team for worlds, Wilcoxson said she will begin training for the event in case she is selected.

"That's for sure if I get selected," she said of competing at worlds. "But the course is very difficult with a lot of climbing, so I'll be training to work for our better climbers."

Optum also hopes to compete at the team time trial at worlds, providing Wilcoson with another avenue to race her bike in Italy. But in the meantime, Wilcoxson said, she will enjoy her forced break at home – with a few limitations.

"All the things I dream about doing on break involve water," she said. "Whether it's kayaking or whatever. But with all the wounds I have right now, I couldn't get past my knees in the lake."

The women’s Giro Rosa will take place over eight days from June 30 to July 7.

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Pat Malach

Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.