Update: Emma is the 2022 US National Road Race Champion - she gets to wear the Stars and Stripes. We could not be more proud
Emma Langley won the Joe Martin Stage Race yesterday racing for EF Education-TIBCO-SVB - the longest-running North American women's pro team. This is like really big news for sure. While it is her first UCI stage race victory it is not her first race win. Emma Langley is from Richmond Virginia. She joined our DORNIER Racing Domestic Elite team back in 2018 and won a lot. She, at the time, was looking for a team to help elevate her cycling career. So, Emma, along with Austin Thompson and Anna DeMonte, joined DORNIER Racing that year expanding a really strong squad with Theresa O'Sullivan, Merrill Thierman, Cinthia Lehner, and Danielle Clark. Emma was pleasant, trained hard, and just raced her bike - very well I might add. I can't tell you how proud we are of her for finding success in the sport that we love, which can also be grueling at times. To the difficulty of the sport, Austin and Anna both left bike racing due to injuries they sustained while racing at these higher levels. After a few seasons with DORNIER Racing (aka Unknown Racing) Emma found EF Education-TIBCO-SVB which gives opportunities to up-and-coming riders, like Emma, to see what they can do.
Our small program may have contributed only an eyedropper of water in Emma's pool of success, but it sure feels good to watch her progress into a stage racer at the top of the sport.
Pro Cycling otherwise in North America is in a bit of a shambles. The continental pro scene is drying up with long-term teams, like Jelly Belly, UHC, Hincapie, and SmartStop evaporating. The races themselves have fragmented and that has led to various criterium (crit) race organizations and teams forming to keep it going like Legion of LA, Best Buddies, and Project Echelon emerging or re-emerging. But the latest changes may unintentionally only be making it worse. Crits seem to be the only thing Americans even barely care about. But people don't even show up for them in big numbers anymore. Road races are expensive and hard to put on - so no promoter wants to take the risk. Everyone believed in the Lance Armstrong story, cancer recovery, and capturing the American dream in the Tour de France (the one race everyone knows about) - and that helped grow the sport here - but the ensuing scandal also helped shrink it again.
What's the problem with American Cycling?
There is no gate for ticket sales, TV for awareness, or money for teams. The value proposition to support a team in the US is low. Basically, charity gifts to just get by. In Europe, people line the roads, watch the races on TV, and support the brands that support the racing. And in turn the brands fund the teams... up to $20 million a year for a world tour team. Yeah, we don't have that here. The big races in the US like Tour of California, Utah, and Colorado have gone away due to financial loss and lack of funding. Winston Salem had, and then lost, a bigger annual UCI event. Joe Martin Stage Race keeps a long tradition going now with the help of Wal-Mart. Back in time, the Tour Dupont and Tour de Trump used to give hope to the rise of great American road racing. All gone.
For now, we cheer for Emma, follow and support her and her team, and look for others like her to inspire young girls and women in the sport. We also look for other potential heroes like Enzo Hincapie - the son of famed US Rider George Hincapie - who, at age thirteen, has been tearing up the local race circuit with wins in increasingly big races just like George did at a young age. And we continue to keep programs like grassroots HopFly Racing and the charitable work we do afloat with sponsor money needed to participate until the US road cycling scene can establish a solid economic base like we see in NASCAR or European bike racing.
Way to go, Emma - you inspire us and have been a great success so far, and congrats on your win at JMSR.