Erica Carney has called it a (racing) career.
The Pennsylvania native, who enjoyed a long career as one of the toughest criterium racers on American soil and powered to a national crit title in 2017, has hung up her wheels to begin a new adventure as a schoolteacher in Baldwin, Georgia.
“I’m getting the hang of it. It’s like training on the bike. You have to have a long term plan and some days are really awesome while some days make you want to cry in your car,” laughed Carney, the 2017 U.S. Pro women’s criterium champion and a multi-time collegiate champion.
“I hope that the resilience and work ethic and toughness I learned from being an athlete the past 15 years are things I can bring to the kids. I want to teach them that it’s okay to not succeed right away, you just have to keep working towards something.”
Carney’s career transition has been several years in the making. In the fall of 2016, while still continuing to race – and win – she began studying for and ultimately completed a graduate program in teaching at Piedmont College.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be bike racing forever and I didn’t want to get to a point where I was ready to walk away from the sport and be unsure of what I was going to do next,” Carney said.
“I’m still doing some fun mountain and gravel events and will probably jump into some crits next year to fill any gaps or feelings of missing racing.”
Having finished her graduate degree in December of last year, Carney has already begun her new career, teaching English/language arts and social studies to a fourth-grade class.
As she continues the transition into her new gig, Carney can look back with pride on a career full of achievements. After years as one of the country’s top criterium racers, her crowning achievement was winning the national criterium title in Louisville, Kentucky in 2017.
“It was such an honor to wear the stars and stripes,” she said. “It took my whole career to win the championship and it taught me a lot about staying dedicated.”
Perseverance and commitment, so important to Carney’s professional career, are just a few of the values she hopes to be able to pass on to her students.
“You can do really cool things if you just try, and it doesn’t have to be in a conventional way,” she said. “Who would have thought I would have spent the last 15 years of my life racing bikes around?”