A rejection from Washington State's Artist Diploma program, a program specifically designed for musicians to pursue a career as a performing artist, left Emily Joy Newsom crushed. Everything, her entire world, passions, emotions, wrapped around the piano.
Her life had reached a turning point, though it would be years before that was clear. A career as a musician was put on hold. At that point, her spirit needed to be liberated, so she turned to the challenging and rewarding world of running, a place where she said she found peace and fulfillment.
"Running was invigorating, freeing, painful, challenging, everything I needed as I emerged from the despair in which I had fallen," Newsom said. "I met interesting people, made friends, and set some respectable PR's in the 10k and half marathon. Considering I had invested many years of my life to a craft that required massive dedication and consistency, there was no way to escape the fact that I was hardwired to crave progress.
Soon after, Newsom began pushing herself to be an elite runner. Her goal was the Olympic Trials in the marathon, something she and her coach were confident she could attain. However, plagued by an odd foot strike, she went through numerous stress fractures in her feet, and finally, a tibial fracture cemented the reality that it wasn't meant to be.
"My emotional state was still a bit fragile, and I couldn't handle working so hard to be cruelly thwarted by one's own body. I reluctantly turned my back on running," Newsom said. "I had spent a little time on a time trial bike for cross-training, and my coach noticed I had considerable aptitude for it."
Enter her, somewhat begrudging, acceptance that perhaps cycling was the answer.
Newsom started racing in 2013. After encouraging wins at the Texas State Time Trial and Cat 4 State Road Race championship, she was well on her way to recapture the glow she felt while running.
That fall, Newsom trained with enthusiasm, excited for the 2014 season. She dug deep into YouTube and watched hundreds of races to up her strategy game and pumped out 18 hour training weeks, with a little swimming and running to boot. However, her dedication didn't produce the desired results. After a disappointing Wednesday night crit race, Newsom realized she was pregnant.
"The next nine months were a constant state of listening intently to my body, keeping it in shape, yet never overdoing it," Newsom said. "I managed to keep an athletic regimen of two to three hours per day for the first trimester, two hours for the second trimester, and about one and a half hours for the third. I remained strong and, after the bike became uncomfortable, was able to continue running throughout the entire pregnancy.
When Marijke Louise Newsom was born, I was filled with awe, and 100 Olympic Gold Medals don't hold a candle to the incredible feat of bringing life into this world."
The six months following the pregnancy turned out to be more difficult than the new mother and athlete expected.
"I was terrified I wouldn't be able to get my physical fitness back to where it was," Newsom recalled. "However, time is a kind friend, and my body began to find it's new normal. I tried to be understanding and patient with myself and realized it would take at least as long as I had been pregnant to recover."
It took three months for Newsom to enter a race after her daughter Marijke was born. It was a shock to both her body and mind, but she left feeling determined to get back to where she was.
"The art of discipline was so ingrained within me, as a musician and an athlete, it was a relief to be able to embrace a routine," said Newsom, who won her next race the following spring.
The win gave her a huge boost of confidence. She continued to win consistently, and also found new ways to challenge herself.
"I found competitive criteriums to race, a discipline that was new and very uncomfortable for me," Newsom said. "By the fall, my technique had improved a little, my power had gone up, and I was genuinely excited to see where I could go and what I could achieve."
By 2017, Newsom was competing with the best, with US Pro Nationals Road Race as her personal goal. The morning of, she woke up with extreme pain in her shoulder rotator cuffs. Thankfully, being on the bike was the one position in which her shoulders didn't bother her.
"Before the race began, my husband said, 'you belong in that peloton. Race your bike.' And so I did, spending the majority of the race solo and ultimately ending in ninth position."
Her determination at nationals caught the eye of Team TIBCO - Silicon Valley Bank, and she signed on in 2018. Since then, Newsom has won multiple gravel races, claimed fourth at the 2019 Chrono de Gatineau, sixth at US Pro Nationals Time Trial championship, and has shown consistency and strength while racing in Europe.
"I'm really proud of taking the queen of the mountains and points jersey in my first UCI European race at Erpe Mere in Belgium," Newsom said.
Along with her solid results on the bike, Newsom's seamless transition to a professional team shows she can also be an excellent teammate, which she says is one of her favorite things about racing at the top level.
"I've become close friends with many of my teammates," Newsom said. "We've cried together, we've lost together, we've won and celebrated, we've encouraged and lifted each other in times of profound challenges and distress. The longer I race, the more it is apparent to me that the incredible women I have the privilege of racing beside are truly the heart and soul of cycling."