On May 14th, Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Columbia) will ride in the very difficult Tour de L’Aude in France for the first time. What makes this remarkable is that her very first cycling race was only in 2008.
“This is my first full year as a pro, so I’ve never done this race before, and I’ve never done one that’s as long as this – ten days – before, either,” Stevens commented. “However, I feel like I’m on the up. I’ve been training pretty hard, and everything’s going well. I see riding the Tour de L’Aude as a great opportunity.”
Stevens journey to the start of Tour de L’Aude is quite remarkable. She was working long hours on Wall Street struggling to find time to workout and fell into riding a bike. In 2008, Stevens started entering races in New York and Vermont…and won. She trained hard all winter and in June 2009 decided to quit her job and try to race full-time.
“I had no contacts with any pro teams but I thought I may as well go for it,” stated Stevens. “This is such a wonderful sport. I got pretty lucky and things really fell into place for me last year.”
Stevens spent the summer of 2009 guest riding for a handful of teams. She rode for Team Lip Smackers and won the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic NRC stage race. She rode with Proman Hit Squad and helped teammate Coryn Rivera win the San Rafael Twilight Criterium. She then rode for Webcor and proceeded to win the Cascade Classic. Stevens placed second in the USA National Time Trial Championships.
“I was so new to the sport last year. When I got invited by Lip Smackers, I was thrilled. There are some great women on that team. For me to get better I need to learn. Every time I went to a new team it was nerve racking. I was the new girl and I wanted to be a good contributing member to the team. Every team I rode with last year was awesome. They totally welcomed me. I had a positive experience all summer long.”
With all of her success, it was only natural that Team USA would come calling.
“I was riding with the National team and found out that I was riding Worlds. I was definitely excited and nervous. To be riding with Kristin Armstrong and Amber Neben…these are the women I was reading about when I was working. To ride with them and to support them in the race was an honor. It was a very exciting experience. It was a strong team. I got to the start line and kept thinking that I wanted to do a good job then you are out there riding and get the rush of the crowds and hear all the people screaming. It was the most professional experience I have ever had. It was surreal.”
The decision to ride for HTC-Columbia was actually quite an easy one. Many team were interested in signing the rising star.
“I started talking to HTC-Columbia in August/September last year,” stated Stevens. “I did have great experiences with all of the teams I rode with last year. Being new to the sport, I saw that these women (from HTC-Columbia) were some of the best in the world and I knew that I could learn from them. Just their professionalism, and their support was awesome. You watch these women race and they are simply classy. Coming from a professional business background, I wanted to be a part of that. I thought this team would be the best place for me to get better and learn.”
Stevens continued her winning ways in 2010…but this time as a member of a pro team.
On a very difficult Sunset Road Race Stage at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, Stevens, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, and the HTC-Columbia team held off numerous attacks from the entire field. The battle ended with a stage win for Stevens and the overall leader’s jersey for her teammate, Teutenberg.
“Evelyn did a great job reeling them all in on the last three lap,” commented Teutenberg. “It was all Evelyn at the end and she deserved the stage win. I was suffering and the group attacked on the steep part. I didn’t have the legs anymore and Evelyn rode a tempo that I could do. Evelyn reeled them all in at the end. It was pretty impressive. It was quite a sight from the back to see Evelyn go…and no one could catch her. Especially after how much work she did.”
She placed a very credible 5th in her first World Cup, Fleche Wallone and 2nd in the Women’s GP Mameranus.
“I want to focus on being the best team mate possible and to keep learning. I will do whatever they need me to do.”
Stevens’ motivation is high after winning two races in Spain last weekend. Almost immediately afterwards, she headed for southern France to train in the region where the Tour de L’Aude will take place. “I’ve looked at the route and as always, there’s a lot of climbing in this race, so it’ll be tough. But we have a strong squad in HTC-Columbia, and personally I’m determined to do my best for the team.”
Joining her at the Tour de L’Aude will be Emilia Fahlin (Swe); Luise Keller (Ger); Linda Villumsen (NZ); Adrie Visser (Hol); and Ina Yoko Teutenberg (Ger).