Audrey McElmury 1943 - 2013
Audrey McElmury was the first American to become the world champion in a road cycling discipline. Audrey won the womens road race in Czechoslovakia in 1969. She also broke a long dry spell, being the first American to win a world championship title since Frank Kramer won the professional sprint race in 1912, and did it eight years before Greg LeMond brought another road world championship medal home to the United States in 1977.
Audrey was an easy pick for the national team, having placed fifth at worlds the previous year. America being a bit of a cycling backwater in the ’60′s, the U.S. cycling federation did not have the money to pay the way for the three women on the team. It cost Audrey and her teammates around $10,000 for airfares, lodging and meals for the worlds trip, but their investment paid off.
The championship races had an interesting backdrop in 1969. Held on the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, tanks were everywhere. Armed soldiers handled traffic control during the rainy road race, not volunteers or police. In the crowds, the Czechs cheered the U.S. riders and booed the Russians. When the Russian women won in the track events, the Czech crowd walked out of the medal ceremonies.
Like most American cyclists, Audrey and her racing career got more attention in Europe than it did at home. For the 1970 racing season, Audrey signed onto an Italian team. That year she won the national pursuit and road championships. She also set the national hour record, 24.8 miles at the Encino velodrome (a record that stood until 1990). McElmury retired from cycling in 1976.
Her 1969 Berry racing bike made its way into Jeff’s museum collection about twenty years ago, and hung above the register in the Kingston store. It is currently on loan to the San Diego Sports Hall of Champions.