Emma Langley wins US national road race championship
Lauren Stephens claims bronze
With her hands on her head in disbelief, Emma Langley sailed under the gantry, winning the US road race national championship.
EF Education-TIBCO-SVB was a marked team from the moment the flag dropped. All eyes in Knoxville would be on our pink jerseys with Lauren Stephens, the defending national champion, present with four teammates. The team also rode strongly at last month’s Joe Martin Stage Race where Emma won the time trial for the second year in a row as well as the general classification.
“Our ultimate goal was to keep it in the team,” Emma says. “We didn’t have one specific person we were going after. We knew all five of us could keep the jersey so we just wanted to keep the race hard.”
"It wasn’t until the last lap that I really believed we’d stay away.”
Emma’s breakaway was the one that ultimately stuck. She and her two companions quickly built up an advantage of more than 90 seconds, which they held for the rest of the race. Still, she couldn’t let her thoughts get ahead of her and Emma remained focused on turning the pedals.
“You never know what’s going to happen. It wasn’t until the last lap that I really believed we’d stay away.”
Because the team had studied the race route in advance and paid close attention during Friday night’s criterium, Emma knew exactly how she wanted to play the finale.
“Luckily we had ten shots through the finish so I was definitely thinking through it, analyzing the crit finish too and knowing that that third to last turn was really the one to go, so 500 meters was the magic number to launch it.”
As soon as Emma opened up her sprint, she was untouchable, opening a four second gap in just a few hundred meters.
As the reduced peloton approached the finish, Lauren attacked, knowing the bronze medal was still up for grabs. It was a testament to her aggressive racing style and her deep respect for the stars and stripes jersey she has been honored to wear since her victory here in 2021.
“It’s been a highlight of the last year mentoring Emma and to see her win today, all I could do was feel proud. In the final kilometers when I attacked for third, I just kept thinking about how much I wanted to stand on the podium with Emma,” Lauren says.
For Emma and Lauren to win gold and bronze medals, it was a massive team effort. The pink jerseys of Emily Newsom, Clara Honsinger, and Veronica Ewers were visible at the front of the peloton throughout the day, controlling the race.
“I couldn’t believe how much every one of us played a part. It was a lot of fun,” says Lauren.
As for what’s next, Emma doesn’t hesitate. “Just let it sink in, recover, and then work to do the jersey proud.”