Reigning U23 road race, time trial and criterium champion Emma White (Rally Cycling) will make her track racing debut this weekend at the Milton World Cup in Canada as part of the USA Cycling women's Team Pursuit squad.
White, a three-time junior cyclo-cross national champion who was third in the U23 race last year, decided to forgo her cyclo-cross endeavours this year in favour of picking up track racing with an eye toward the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
White got her first taste of the track in April when personal coach Kristin Armstrong and USA Cycling track endurance head coach Gary Sutton convinced her to attend a talent ID camp in Colorado Springs. White quickly proved herself adept on the velodrome, and she announced in June that she planned to focus on the making USA Cycling track roster. She most recently finished a track camp with USA Cycling in Los Angeles to prepare for this weekend's World Cup and to workout with the reigning Team Pursuit world champions.
"I feel like every day I learned so much, but it is definitely fast-tracking it, especially because this is the first time I've ridden with these girls – the whole Team Pursuit team," White told Cyclingnews on Monday before travelling home from L.A. "It was a lot different than my past camps in Colorado Springs. It was a lot of immersion."
White will be joined in the Team Pursuit this weekend by reigning world champions Jennifer Valente and Kim Geist. Christina Birch will round out the quartet after Kelly Catlin, who was also on the world championship team last year, fractured her arm in a training crash last week in Los Angeles. It was Valente, Geist, Catlin and Chloe Dygert who won gold at the World Championships last year in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, beating Great Britain by just over a second in the final round.
"They're incredible," White said of her new teammates. "I'm really lucky to be with them. They're teaching me so much. They really know everything about all of these tracks and how to ride the pursuit technically, which has been one of my biggest challenges just because I'm not used to the track. I feel like I'm getting there with their help, and with Gary's help, of course."
Despite losing Catlin and the races in Milton being her first on the track, White told Cyclingnews she and the squad are carrying a lot of confidence into the weekend. They watched last weekend's World Cup opener in Paris, where the Australian women beat New Zealand for gold, and they're going into round 2 with nothing to lose.
"It's a new team," White said, explaining why there are no expectations on the riders. "It's the first time all four of us are riding together, but we're confident because we know we have the best coach and only things to gain after Milton heading into the rest of the season. It will be good. It will be interesting to see how it works out because nobody really knows."
White does know that entering her first track race this weekend will move her one step closer to making her Olympic dream come true in 2020. There's a lot of work left to be done, she said, but the journey to Tokyo starts in earnest this weekend.
"It's not going to be an easy two years," White said. "There's a lot of great girls looking for a spot, but it does make it a little bit closer knowing I'm going to a World Cup. It's very motivating."
After Milton on October 26-28, the UCI Track World Cup travels to Berlin for round 3 on November 2 through December 2. Round 3 is December 14-16 in London, followed by round 4 in Cambridge, New Zealand, January 18-20. The World Cup concludes with the final round in Hong Kong January 25-27.