All in a day’s work: Carmen Small directs EF Pro Cycling to men’s and women’s US nationals titles

Small guides the team to seven medals across five races in West Virginia

May 22, 2024

Carmen Small, sport director for EF Education-Cannondale, got in the race car early Sunday morning to direct first the women’s US road national championship, followed immediately by the men’s race.

By sundown, Small’s riders had won an astounding two gold and two bronze medals in the marquee event, giving the women’s squad its first American road championship in its inaugural season and only the second US road title in the history of the men’s squad.

EF Education-Cannondale’s Kristen Faulkner soloed to win the women’s race by 55 seconds after she attacked her lone rival on the final climb with less than ten kilometers remaining in the 127-kilometer long race. Her teammate Coryn Labecki outsprinted the main chase group for third.

Teammates Sean Quinn and Neilson Powless of EF Education-EasyPost worked together throughout their 212 kilometer race, until the pair were left with just one competitor. Powless launched a barrage of attacks, which Quinn followed, forcing the remaining rider to dig deep and spend precious energy. As they approached the line, each of the three riders unleashed his sprint. Quinn timed his bike throw perfectly, taking the win, while Powless claimed third place.

All in a day’s work.

Small started her career as a high school math teacher in Colorado before she became a fulltime cyclist. Over the ten years she raced professionally, she was a two-time individual time trial national champion, a bronze medalist in the ITT at the world championships, and a two-time world champion in the team time trial. When a concussion ended her racing career in 2017, she became a sport director.

Since joining EF Pro Cycling as the head sport director of the women’s squad, Small has directed race wins at Trofeo Felanitx-Colònia de Sant Jordi, Trofeo Palma Femina, Trofeo Ponente in Rosa, and the Vuelta Femenina.

But Small has had her eye on another race.

“When I signed with the team, the first thing I said to [general manager] Esra Tromp was, ‘Woohoo, we’re going to win US nationals!’” Small said. “I hadn’t been back to nationals since I raced it in 2016 so for me it was really important to come back for the team because we’re American.”

After the team agreed to send Small and support staff to Charleston, West Virginia to direct the women at the 2024 US Pro Road National Championships, Small learned there was a twist: she would also direct the men’s squad.

“At first, no one from the men’s side was coming to nationals but then Neilson was coming for the time trial and the road race,” she said. “Then Sean was added to the roster for the road race. Our mechanic, Tom, and I knew it would be a long day in the car if we followed both of the road races but we thought, ‘Let’s go for it!’ We pumped each other up for it.”

Small knew how to prepare for the women’s road race. These were the athletes she had been working with all season long. To get ready for the men’s race, she turned to her counterparts on the men’s squad for support.

“I reached out to Charly [Wegelius, head sport director on the men’s squad] and Jonathan Vaughters [EF Pro Cycling CEO]. They gave me some insights about the men as riders, their performances, and what their strengths were. That was super helpful. These are riders I don’t normally work with, I don’t know very well. Sean I knew was quite fast because I went to one of the men’s races earlier this season, the Volta a Catalunya, and I remember one of our sport directors saying that Sean was quite fast for being able to go uphill. I had a meeting with Sean and Neilson about what we wanted to do in the race. The guys were really honest about what they wanted to do and how they thought they could do it so I helped refine the plan a bit. Then on race day, I supported them and coached them a bit from the car,” she said.

In addition to the wins in the road races, Small directed Labecki to the victory at the criterium national champion and guided Faulkner and Powless to silver and bronze medals, respectively, in the women’s and men’s time trial championships. In all, Small directed the riders to three national titles for a total of seven podium places in five races.

“I’m exhausted,” she said after the week’s racing had concluded. “But it’s good! I’m on a super high, for sure. I will be happy to celebrate and not drive a car for a while.”

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