Countdown to the Life Time Grand Prix
Off-road racing begins for Emily Newsom at the Sea Otter Classic
When you’re an accomplished professional road cyclist, a classically trained pianist, and a parent, what do you do to get out of your comfort zone?
You sign up for the Life Time Grand Prix, if you're Emily Newsom.
A series of six off-road races held across the United States between April and October, the first edition of the Grand Prix promises to be spectacular. The three mountain bike races are the Sea Otter Classic, Leadville Trail 100 MTB, and Chequamegon MTB Festival. Unbound Gravel, Crusher in the Tushar, and Big Sugar Gravel are the three gravel events.
Life Time required prospective riders to apply to the series and took into account each athlete’s racing experience, their motivation for participating in the series, and how they contribute to the growth of the sport. The field is limited to 30 women and 30 men, and riders earn points based on their finishing position in each individual race. The male and female riders with the most accumulated points from their five best races will be the winners after the final race, Big Sugar Gravel in October.
The series kicks off on Saturday in Monterey, California with the Sea Otter Classic. Emily Newsom will race Fuego XC 80k, which features 1,700 meters of climbing. “My schedule was planned around these events,” Emily says. “I have had to adjust my views on what my year looks like versus what I originally anticipated before I was chosen for the series. Less time in Europe, more time playing in the dirt.”
She is the only rider from EF Education-TIBCO-SVB racing the series, but Emily explains that having teammates wouldn’t make a difference given that the format is based on individuals and not teams. “I’m not sure traditional tactics will play a huge role,” she says. “I think a bigger advantage would be to understand the field and know who is strong in which situations and how to respond in a way that utilizes them for my own gain. It’s important to keep the six races in mind and understand what it takes to come to each race as best prepared as possible.”
Given that Emily has already raced a Spanish stage race, the cobbles in Belgium, and the white roads of Tuscany this season, it’s fair to say that she comes into Fuego XC 80 in good form. “I’m very strong at the moment and my fitness is only growing. The main missing piece for me in regards to preparation for the series is mountain bike skills but the three mountain bike races are far enough apart that I can learn from the first one.”
An avid gravel cyclist, Emily is newer to mountain biking and admits to feeling nervous about racing at Sea Otter. “I broke down as my husband and I were about to leave the house for the airport,” Emily recalls. “I told him I’m scared. I’ve done only four mountain bike rides, during one of which I ripped open my knee. He let me cry and told me that he understood and yes it was scary, but to give my fitness and courage a chance to show and I may surprise myself. Though I have my husband’s confidence comforting me, I am most scared of this mountain bike race, but I will give it everything I have.”
Emily has since done recon on the Fuego XC 80 course and is now more eager for the race than she had anticipated. “I’m feeling a curious excitement to see how this race will go, not only for myself, but for those riders that are also new to this discipline. I’m not alone in my trepidations and I’ve come to realize the best approach for me is to have an open mind willing to learn and free of negativity towards myself.” Ultimately, she says, “I am taking this as an opportunity to learn a new discipline alongside amazing women amidst some beautiful country.”
How to watch: FloBikes will stream the race live beginning Saturday, April 9th at 8am Pacific