The morning announcements at Duanesburg High School often include congratulations for some achievement by one of the school’s sports teams.
Emma White, a senior who lives in Delanson, is cool with that.
She doesn’t compete in an interscholastic sport and therefore gets no public recognition for her athletic achievements, either at school or when she’s plugging away on her bike for hours on the grueling hills near her home. Maybe a horn toot from somebody driving by.
She does get to go to Spain, though. There is that.
In fact, the 17-year-old is there right now, participating in a training camp with Team USA before competing in the Juniors Women division of the UCI Road World Championships in Ponferrada starting on Sunday.
She’s already taking a two-week leave of absence even though the school year just started, but this is an invaluable event for White, insofar as it’s an entree to Team USA and comes against stiff international competition.
“The only thing that might be intimidating is the other teams, but I’m excited for it and don’t know what to expect,” White said on Saturday.
White has been following in the footsteps of her brother, Curtis, a Union College student who finished 24th in the U23 men’s division at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in the Netherlands in February.
Like many cyclists, the Whites compete in both the road seasons and cyclo-cross season, which covers the fall and winter.
Cyclo-cross racing takes place on hilly loop courses with obstacles that occasionally force the athletes to get off the bike and carry it. Road cycling is known for three disciplines, time trial (rider competes alone against the clock); road race (point-to-point or a few long laps); and criterium, or crit (multiple short laps).
Emma White will compete in two of the three in Spain, the time trial by virtue of having won the 17-18 division at the USA Cycling national championships in Madison, Wisc., on July 4, and the road race as an at-large selection by USA Cycling for her second-place finish to Janelle Cole of Michigan in that race at Madison.
Her friends and some teachers at school realize that she’s on a bike all the time, even if they’re not entirely sure what she’s doing with all that weekday training and weekend racing.
“Some teachers are super-interested, but I don’t think they truly understand what I put into it,” she said.
White’s workout week usually entails 2-3 hours a day on the road after school.
Tuesdays are for avoiding the hills (not so easy to pull off in southwest Schenectady County), Wednesdays are for a hard effort with intervals, Thursdays are easier and Fridays are for sprint training.
It amounts to about 40-60 miles a day.
A popular spot is Kelley Station Road between Scotch Ridge Road and Route 7.
“I’m lucky I live where I do live,” she said. “And it’s not busy [with traffic].”
It’s not unusual for White to compete against and train with males her age.
In fact, she’s the only girl — and the first in 20 years — of eight junior riders on the Hot Tubes Development Team that is sending several athletes to the World Championships.
Her coach is two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong of Boise, Idaho, who has a training app set up for White to follow.
As far as her schoolwork, she’s an excellent student, but still had a hectic final week before getting on the plane for Spain on Monday. She said the assignments likely would take up the entire trans-Atlantic flight to Madrid.
Of course, she’s done homework on her destination, and said “I’m so fired up. Everything is absolutely gorgeous there. I’m going to try to get a GoPro on my helmet so I can watch it all after.
“I don’t know what to expect. I’d like to set a little higher goals, but this is my first year as a junior, and if I make it next year, the worlds are in Virginia. I’ve never raced internationally and never been to Europe.”
White said she took Spanish for two years at Duanesburg, so we closed our phone interview with a pop quiz.
“What’s Spanish for ‘bicycle’?”
She passed that one with flying colors. It will be interesting to see how her Spanish experience translates to the rest of her cycling career.