The road less traveled for Emma White, is, well … the road.
She hasn’t competed in her category of cycling since late February of last year — 15 long months — and for an athlete who expects to be in Tokyo this summer for the Olympic Games, this, of course, is not ideal.
But when was the last time anything seemed ideal?
So in an effort to simply get in some riding in a highly competitive setting, the Duanesburg High and Union College graduate will participate in the USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships in Knoxville the second full week of June as a steppingstone to Tokyo.
White, who will turn 24 15 days after the Olympic closing ceremonies, is looking forward to competing at Road Nationals as she and her teammates continue to prepare at the Team USA Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the track cycling events in Tokyo.
“Even though I had that opportunity last fall to do some road racing, it’s still been 14, 15 months now since a track race,” she said on Thursday. “Our event, team pursuit, is easy to mimic and mock races in training, because we’re not racing alongside other countries [during competition], and it is just a team event against the clock.
“But it’s not the same. You’ve got the loudspeakers and the whole things that makes race day different from any training day. It’s impossible to make that up. But, yeah, we are champing at the bit. I think Nationals will be a good time to pin on the number.
White is one of eight on what is called the track Long Team, a pool of eight who will be cut down to five for the Olympics, which will be announced on June 7.
She solidified her standing as one of the five when she teamed up with Jennifer Valente, Chloe Dygert and Lily Williams to dominate the UCI Track Cycling World Championships at the Velodrome in Berlin, Germany, on Feb. 27, 2020.
In the process of winning the gold medal at worlds, the foursome broke a national record for 4k.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, and White has been training in Colorado Springs ever since, with occasional breaks. She flew back to the Capital Region for Mother’s Day, but won’t see her parents again until she comes home to Duanesburg for a post-Olympics party.
To say the race schedule has been patchy would be a gross understatement.
There has been no significant track racing, and other than a few road races in Europe in the fall with her pro team, Rally Cycling, Road Nationals next month will be a welcome opportunity to compete.
“No racing at all. Just been training here,” White said. “That’s the goal of showing up at Nationals, just to get the race nerves back and feel what it’s like to line up, although it’s not a track race.
“We don’t know what our fitness will be like there, because we’re certainly not training for a road at this point, but it’ll be a great test to line up against another team, and it’ll definitely make us stronger, just because it’ll be a fast pace that pushes a little bit more.”
Although the final five hasn’t been announced yet, there’s no reason for White to not be confident that she’ll go to Tokyo.
“I am not too concerned, just because of the way the World Championships went,” she said. “It’s a stressful time for everybody right now, but we’re just waiting to breathe again once the selections come out. I think that I, personally, have only gotten better since Berlin, and our team is moving pretty quickly.”
The big question mark is whether the Team USA women’s track team pursuit has successfully bottled what they were able to do in Berlin so that they can uncork it in Tokyo.
That’s compounded by the fact that the superstar Dygert, while in full training now, is still recovering from a horrific crash that sent her down a steep embankment at the road World Championships in Italy in September.
“Right now, it’s 100% trust in my coaches,” White said. “It’s hard for us to tell, because no country has been racing. It’s been 15 months for us, but it’s also been 15 months for every other country, so it’s hard to tell where anyone else is at compared to where we are at.
“But we’ve got some pretty awesome coaches and people working for us. Hopefully, we know what works for the lead-in, because we did it before the World Championships. Hopefully, we’ll just repeat that, and I trust them, so I’ll just do what they say.”
A massive cloud hanging over the Tokyo Games remains the possibility that they will be canceled because of a fourth spike in coronavirus infections, as well as a state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of Japan.
That was scheduled to end on Monday, but on Friday it was extended to June 20, a month before the opening ceremonies.
“I try not to keep track of it, honestly, at all,” White said. “We just have to go forth with the belief that everything will happen. It’s tough to see all that come out knowing how much we’re putting into it at this point.
“At the same time, in the last year, we’ve seen disappointment after disappointment. So there’s a little part of me, in the back of my head, wondering if it will go on. But we are full speed ahead in training as if it’ll all go on and try not to think about the worst possible outcome.”
The women’s team pursuit will be simulating Tokyo climate and altitude conditions at the training center.
All White and her teammates can do is forge ahead, which, as has been the case for the last 15 months, entails training, training, training … with one race next month to help them get sharp.
“We’re back in business,” she said.
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