23 US Pro Preview 1130x600
National Championships

Pro Road Nationals Preview with Emma Langley and EF-TIBCO-SVB

By: By Jim Rutberg, TORRE  May 11, 2023

With the 2023 US Pro Road National Championships coming up on June 22, the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB Pro Cycling Team is aiming to retain the Stars-and-Stripes jersey for a third consecutive year.

Current Road Race National Champion, Emma Langley, and 2021 Champion, Lauren Stephens, are both expected to compete, along with teammates Clara Honsinger and Veronica Ewers. Although EF Education-TIBCO-SVB squad has had tremendous success at National Championships in recent years, keeping the jersey in the team will be a challenge as the level of competition in the US Pro Women’s peloton continues to rise.

“The US Women are on fire right now,” beamed Emma Langley. “Each year the bar has been elevated, which is exciting, and I think it’s great that the level of competition is so high.” For 2023, the US Pro Road National Championships returns to Knoxville, Tennessee for its last year, which has hosted the championships since 2017.

Knoxville: “A course for gritty, opportunistic riders”

Even if she hadn’t won her first Stars-and-Stripes jersey there, Langley says the road race course in Knoxville is one of her favorites: “I love it, and I promise I would have said that before last year, too. I think it’s great for spectators because we do multiple laps through downtown. The main climb is no joke, but it’s also not a ‘climber’s’ course. I think it suits and opportunistic, gritty, punchy rider. The course lends itself to exciting racing, which means exciting racers are the ones who are not afraid to take a stab at it. There’s so much attrition that you can’t just hang back and wait for the finish.”

How Langley won in Knoxville

Langley certainly didn’t hang back and wait for the finish in the 2022 National Championships Road Race. With the defending champion, Stephens, in the race, the plan was to keep the Stars-and-Stripes jersey in the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB team, but not with any particular rider. “We decided to cover moves in the first half of the race, and then at the halfway point was when we’d start really racing. And that’s when I attacked, and it stuck! Lauren De Crescenzo and Skyler Schneider bridged up and the three of worked to build a gap.”

With half the race still left to go, Langley wasn’t confident the breakaway would stay away to the finish but knew that being out front would help her teammates conserve energy in the peloton. However, with about two laps to go, it became clear the National Championship would be won by one of the breakaway riders. “That’s when, in my mind, it certainly shifted from ‘I’m just riding the breakaway’ to ‘I’m riding to win this race’, Langley recalled. “It felt like a lot of pressure in the moment, as I realized it was really coming down to me to finish this off and that my teammates had done so much to set this up.”

After Schneider dropped off the back of the breakaway, Langley remembers marveling at De Crescenzo’s strength, particularly on the big climb. “Lauren was just a powerhouse. Every time going up the main climb, I was hanging on for dear life. The last two laps I was worried she’d drop me on the climb, but knowing I had to set up for a two-woman finish I was also trying to conserve as much energy as possible.”

The final kilometer of the Knoxville championship course features a gradual uphill and a series of corners leading to the finishing straight. It was Langley’s first experience coming into a finale as part of a small breakaway, and she was uncertain about her chances in a two-up sprint against De Crescenzo. “I knew I needed to play it as wisely as possible,” she recalled. “I decided to go for it with 500 meters to go, on that gradual climb, to go through those final turns first.”

The National Champion Experience


Langley pulled on the Stars-and-Stripes jersey in her first year on a UCI Women’s World Tour team. Prior to National Championships, she’d raced her first spring campaign in Europe, an experience she described as valuable but tough. “I learned something every race and it was a great experience, but it was also tough. Getting to come back to

the U.S., win one of the biggest races over here, and then getting to go back with a new jersey was definitely a boost in confidence.” She credits her team, however, for not placing elevated expectations or pressure on her as she gained experience in the European peloton.

When asked about her favorite experience as the National Champion, Langley recalled her first race in Europe in the jersey, the 4-stage Tour of the Pyrenees. “I remembered that back in the spring, at the Joe Martin Stage Race, I was the General Classification rider and on the final criterium day Lauren Stephens dominated the front of the race in the National Champion jersey. It was so cool for the National Champion to be on the front working for the team, and then I found myself with the same opportunity to help Krista Doebel-Hickok win Tour of the Pyrenees! It felt awesome to showcase the jersey as a strong teammate.”

Sidelined by a Mysterious Injury

Langley’s tenure as the US Pro Road Race National Champion was not without challenges. In December 2022, a series of minor incidents snowballed into mysterious and debilitating pain that made normal daily activities uncomfortable and training nearly impossible. With no clear cause, and therefore no clear course of treatment, she continued training and working through the symptoms with doctors and physical therapists. A trip to Australia for the Tour Down Under in January was unproductive, as the long flights exacerbated the pain and eliminated her from the start list. Upon returning to the United States, she began treatment with two physical therapists in Richmond, Virginia who were finally able to discern the sources of her pain, which she describes as a combination of muscle misfiring, nerve tension, and pelvic misalignment.

Although the pain has gradually subsided and her ability to train effectively has returned, Langley will have few race days in her legs prior to the 2023 US Pro Road Race National Championships. She will race the Joe Martin Stage Race prior to Nationals. “I’m happy with how my fitness is going,” she says. “I feel genuinely confident I can help the team, but I’m not necessarily in a position to defend the jersey myself.” That said, don’t count Emma Langley out: “I will race the best I can, and we’ll see what plays out. But the plan is to go in and be a great teammate, with the goal of putting an EF Education-TIBCO-SVB rider in the jersey.”