If you asked Emily Joy Newsom what she would be doing with her life back in 2007, professional cycling would not be anywhere on the list.

At the time, the Washington state native moved to Fort Worth to attend Texas Christian University. But shortly after completing a master’s in piano performance, Newsom found herself looking for something different. 

She felt burned out from the academic setting, the 38-year-old recalled, and disappointed she didn’t get into the program she wanted. In her search for her next move, she turned to running. 

“It just always looked fun to me,” Newsom said. “The discipline that I had cultivated by being a musician did translate into running.”

It was in that running group that Newsom met her future husband, James, now 58. James Newsom, who used to own Fort Worth Running Company, had experience as a runner. Today, he is the general manager of Bike Mart at Trailhead in Clearfork. 

James had already met Emily once at a one-day event several years before she joined his same running group. 

“She was really eccentric and she had this funky jacket on that I thought was really cool, even though it was a ski jacket,” he said. 

James and Emily struck a deal: he would coach her in running in exchange for piano lessons. In 2014, the couple tied the knot and, in 2015, welcomed their daughter, Marijke, now 7 years old. 

But the running journey quickly took a toll on the Newsoms. After a series of injuries, Emily Newsom turned to cycling. 

For Newsom, cycling allowed her body to stay fit while reducing injury. Despite not having an athletic background, she found that she had a natural aptitude for it after performing well in the cycling portion of the triathlons she completed.

As she competed in races statewide, her bike times quickly caught attention. In 2016, she won every Texas race she participated in. The following year, she signed with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB’s women pro cycling team

But her big break came this past summer, when she and five other women from the team were selected out of a roster of 13 to participate in the Tour de France Femmes — the first return of the global phenomenon since 1984. 

Caption: The EF Education-TIBCO-SVF women cycling team at the 2022 Tour de France Femmes. Emily Newsom is second from the right. (Photo by Twila Federica Muzzi for EF Education)

Newsom said she made it clear to her director that this was something she wanted to do. She was notified of her selection just one month before the start of the race.

“I was so excited to go and to be a part of something that is so historical and monumental,” Newsom said from her balcony in Pau, France. “It’s something that women have worked for for so many years since it went away.”

Participating in the Tour de France was bigger than herself, and offered the opportunity for Newsom to be a role model for her 7-year old daughter. 

“I know in the future, when she realizes what women have had to fight for in all areas of life, but especially in athletics – we’ve had to really fight to be seen and to be heard and the chance to show the world our sport — I know she will realize how cool it was that I could be a part of this,” she said. 

The Tour de France Femmes started July 24 — the same day the men’s Tour de France finished crossing into the Champs-Elysees — and attracted over 5 million viewers among French television stations for the final stage atop La Super Planche des Belles Filles, a ski station in the Vosges Mountains. 

Emily Newsom, 38, races in stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes as spectators cheer. (Photo by Twila Federica Muzzi for EF Education)

In the past, the Tour de France Femmes had trouble getting off the ground, whether it was because of a lack of financial support, public interest or overall recognition. While it may have taken a while for the world to give this sporting event another shot, this is the crown jewel of any cyclist’s career.

“To me, it’s more interesting than the men’s racing because all the women go from the gun. They race hard the whole time,” said James Newsom, who is also an avid cyclist and coaches Emily when she’s home. 

“I think most cyclists, if they were given the choice of winning the Olympics or winning the Tour de France, they would pick the Tour de France,” he said.

Emily Newsom did not make the time cut to move on to the last stage of the Tour. Stage 7’s climb was her latest challenge in this race. Determined not to give up, her tired legs soon could not keep up with the mountainous terrain and she fell behind, she recounted in an essay posted on the team’s website. 

People might be surprised to learn that cycling is more of a team sport than it is individual, Newsom said. Each member of the team has a specific role based on her athletic capabilities and the terrain of the stage. It takes all riders to help a teammate cross the finish line. 

Newsom’s teammate, 27-year old Veronica Ewers, placed ninth overall in the Tour. 

Since the end of the race, Newsom has had time to process the feeling of missing the time cut. While a sense of sadness overcame her in the beginning, she now knows she accomplished what she was expected to do in her team and poured herself into the task. 

“Nobody wants to miss time, but at the same time I rode a lot of that stage for myself,” Newsom said. “I knew I probably wouldn’t make it, but I wanted to finish nonetheless.”

Emily Newsom smiles for a photo at the end of Stage 4 of the Tour de France Femmes. (Photo by Twila Federica Muzzi for EF Education)

But the ride wasn’t over yet. On Aug. 5, the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB team participated in the Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées, a three-day race in the Pyrenees mountain range. Newsom said this race was not as high-leveled as the Tour de France and proved slightly easier for the six riders. 

The main cycling season ends in October and with a few races left for Newsom to complete back in the U.S., this means she will soon be closer to home — and catch up with her husband and daughter. 

Balancing her professional and personal life has taken a few years to perfect but remains a work in progress. Newsom said her husband has been supportive and stepped up to care for their daughter.  And with in-laws just 15 minutes away, Newsom can get on the road with peace of mind. 

“She’s obviously so well-cared for that I’m OK being gone,” Newsom said. “In some ways, it gives others a chance to develop a relationship with her that otherwise maybe wouldn’t be to that level.”

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter at @ssadek19

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Sandra Sadek

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Houston, she graduated from Texas State University where she studied journalism and international...