By Debbie Adams
Kerry Werner of Vinton took first place in the Men’s Singlespeed Cyclocross event in the 2022 USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford, Connecticut, on Dec. 10. He completed the four laps of the single speed race in 36 minutes competing against about 100 other starters.
The following day he placed third in the Elite Men’s 2022 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championship, with a speed of 1:04:27 for seven laps.
His wife, Emily Shields Werner, also raced on Dec. 11 in the Elite Women’s division of the 2022 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championship, placing tenth in the competition.
According to the USA Cycling Foundation, “Cyclocross is a unique discipline of cycling that can best be described as a cross between road cycling, mountain biking and steeplechase, a multi-terrain form of bike racing.”
Cyclocross Magazine defines the sport as a “form of bike racing that is mostly off-road but includes portions of pavement. Its courses typically include hills, sand pits, and muddy sections, sometimes leading a racer to shoulder their bike and run with it.”
Kerry Werner said, “Cyclocross is very similar to a cross-country running race, in course and style. It’s a mass start event with different age groups, I race the pro-open age group, which is the fastest group. The race is one hour long, full gas. After you do a couple of laps, the officials set a lap counter and try to make the race as close to an hour as possible. The first one to cross the line at the end of the race wins. The courses are usually set in a park and are roughly two miles long. At race pace, the lap takes anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes to complete. We usually do 7 to 10 laps per race.”
The Werners moved to the Vinton area in 2020 from Winston-Salem, N.C., specifically because of the “high quality, diverse, and plentiful trails, roads, and hikes the Roanoke Region has to offer.”
“We came up here because we have friends that we went to school with that live in town and they took us out on an awesome weekend of riding and checking out the place,” Kerry Werner said. “Within one week we were back and looking at houses. After three weeks we put a down payment on a house and moved here in July 2020. We have both been here for Go-Cross before, Roanoke’s own UCI CX race, and so we knew a little bit about the cycling community, but once we moved here, we fell even more in love with it and have been super happy with the decision to live here ever since.”
The Werners own Virginia Blue Ridge Adventures, a guided cycling tour business, providing one day and multi-day guided rides and offering road, mountain biking, and gravel biking, and even bike path cruising in downtown Roanoke. However, professional racing is the main occupation for both.
“I set up Virginia Blue Ridge Adventures because– one, I love the area and wanted to be able to have a way to show people the area, but also as a potential retirement plan. I just don’t have the time to solely focus on building that business and guiding people or doing skills clinics. Right now, the opportunity to race full-time is what I am focused on because I know that my ability to do so is limited. I’ll always have VBRA waiting for me.”
Kerry is a member of the Kona Adventure Team based out of Washington State, where Kona bicycles headquarters is located.
“I’ve been riding for Kona since 2016 and they have provided me with an amazing amount of support and freedom to race races that I think are important to promote the brand and push myself to be better,’ Kerry explains. “Most races are on the weekends. I think I rack up between 30 and 50 races per year. So, if you do the math, with only 52 weeks in a year, I definitely race the majority of the time.
“Preparing for a race is pretty simple in concept. Basically, we just ride and train, fine-tuning our fitness and skills as the season goes on so that we can hit specific races at our best ability and usually those races are the most high-profile races.
“A typical training week usually consists of 15 to 30 hours of riding. But there’s so much more behind the scenes stuff that goes on which makes this a full-time job. Proper nutrition, proper recovery, stretching, self-care basically. When you’re an elite athlete, every move you make is scrutinized under a microscope and wondering how it will affect training and recovery so you can tease out the most subtle gains possible.
“Emily is also a professional cyclist and a registered dietician,” Kerry said. “She works for two long-term care facilities in the area as well as her own personal nutrition coaching company. Her main focus is cyclocross, but she also races mountain bike and a handful of gravel races throughout the year.
“This year she’s had top-five finishes and the fastest CX races in the country and finished fifth in the overall US Cyclocross series. She is flying over to Europe this week to race a handful of cyclocross world cups, the toughest, fastest cyclocross races in the world.”
(He proposed to her at the peak of Mount Massive in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. They were married in 2018.)
Emily says she started racing when she was just 10 years old.
“My twin sister and I were at a cyclocross race my dad was promoting,” she explains. “He has been a cyclist since his 30s. We saw some other kids racing and wanted to try it, so my mom ran home to get our mountain bikes. I fell in love with cyclocross that day and have been racing ever since.
“My sister now lives in Utah and races locally out there. I continued with racing professionally because I wanted to see how far I could go with it and what I could achieve. I work part time for two long term care facilities in the area and have my own sports dietitian practice so I can support myself and continue to race.”
Emily earned her undergraduate degree in biology at Lees McRae College and her Master’s in Nutrition at UNC Greensboro. She is a Registered Dietician who “loves helping people improve their cycling performance through nutrition.”
During her undergraduate and graduate education, she raced collegiately and was a three-time National Champion in Cyclocross and Short Track.
For more information on Emily’s company visit https://emilywernersportsnutrition.com. For more information on Virginia Blue Ridge Adventures check out their website at https://www.vbradventures.com/. \