Evelyn Stevens’ Interview

BOELS-21804
@ Cor Vos

At this point in time when versatile rider Evelyn Stevens has announced her cycling retirement (at the end of the 2016 season) it seems to be an appropriate idea to look back over her 7-years cycling career as well as asking her to point out some highlights, goals, future plans and mental strategies she has used during her successful career.

Wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
Walking makes the road,
and turning to look behind
you see the path that you
will never tread again.
Antonio Machado

As it is well known, Evelyn Stevens had a late start to her cycling career. It was not until she was 26 years old when American rider Evelyn Stevens started her way into professional cycling. With a mixed of effort, sacrifice, attitude and the invaluable help of her mentors Evie started to tread her own path to the top of women’s cycling. A way that will come to an end after Doha World Championships with the well-reasoned decision of not coming back. 

Do you have maternity plans or family plans, managerial or Sports Director role after retiring? 

My first plan after retiring is working in the US. I would like to go back into finance or business, wherever it could be. First I will need to figure out what job opportunities are out there and then, I think I would like to have a family. But first, I want to get myself established in a new career and then, I can start a family. I think I would be a terrible Sports Director so that is not even a choice. I can’t drive a car.

What about creating an Evelyn Stevens’ Cycling Academy?

I have been given so much through cycling. I really need to figure out a way to give back what the sport has given to me. Is it through a cycling academy? Is it through mentoring a handful of women? I need to figure out the best way to establish something.

So many women have helped me throughout my career, so I really want to make sure that I can help new women coming up, but not even that, young kids and everyone on bicycles.

I have been involved in a few different organisations in the US, one called Cyclekids which helps kids on bicycles and teaches them how to ride. I need to figure out the best way to use my time and what I have learned in cycling to give back.

Following that idea of paying it forward, would you consider getting back from retirement due to an Olympic gold medal pursuit? (similarly to what Emma Pooley has done recently)

I think I have had such a wonderful career and I really enjoyed it. You can never say never, especially when so many women came back, but really, at this moment, I don’t see myself coming back.

I have had the chance to go after a lot my goals, some of them I’ve accomplished and some I haven’t. For me is not always about the end result as much as how I actually go about, trying to accomplish that goal. I think the time around it is what really values the process. The integrity in which I have done things and the people around me. So, I think I have had a really good opportunity for seven years to be the best cyclist I could be. Of course, you always think to get better but eventually you have end. I can’t imagine myself coming back.

Doha ’16: Is it your final competition? If you win the gold medal will you reconsider or recalculate your retirement plans? 

No, to win the gold medal won’t make me reconsider my retirement plans. Part of the reason I want to retire now is that I still feel very strong and I want to have that memory of being good and being really respected in the peloton.

2016: What are your goals and expectations for the rest of your farewell season? 

Right now, I just want to be a very valuable member for Boels-Dolmans. Then, the big goal I have is to win the Team Time Trial (TTT) with Boels-Dolmans. We got silver last year. Before that, I have won it every year before with Specialized-Lululemon. It’s been a very big focus of our season and I think it is one of my favourite events in cycling.

@ Cor Vos
@ Cor Vos

2016: Rate your season so far, which has been your biggest achievement? 

I will rate it pretty high. The HR was a really big target and I found out that it end with a big success. Actually from the result and just from personally what I learnt from it.

For me the Giro this year was really special, I just wanted to win some more races, stages before I retire and to win two Giro Rosa road stages and the Time Trial (TT) was great. Especially, the sixth stage that I won at Madonna della Guardia, due to my mentor Connie Carpenter Phinney. We had gone there prior to the race. She was a big part of that stage and then the win on it was really special.

Boels-00003
Evie on the leader’s jersey at the second stage of 2016 Giro Rosa @ Cor Vos

How has women’s cycling changed since you signed your first pro contract? 

It has developed greatly since 2010. I always get the question about women’s cycling which I never got when I first started. There is a Women’s World Tour (WWT), which I think is in the right direction, but I still think there is a lot development that needs to be done in women’s cycling, more time on TV. I think the Olympic Road Race was a huge success. People realised how exciting our racing is. So the more sponsors, more coverage you get. I think it has started to grow and will likely continue to grow.

Mental stress and difficulties. Coping strategies for example regarding both post race blues and mi-race motivation. Strategies you used and found useful for your HR attempt.

I fell that actually for me, as I started so late, mental stress is wide part of cycling. Sometimes I am lost in a state of anxiety while racing so I have worked a lot with sports psychologists and a variety of coping strategies. But lately I have found meditation to be the best one for me. I like to meditate every morning, five, ten or fifteen minutes depending on my time. That helps me a lot to quiet myself, to be on the right mental state. Then when I’m on my bike I really want to make sure I stay present. The HR was a great focus on how to be present on your bike, as there was nothing else there. I had no data, no information, it was just me and my bike for 60 minutes of pushing at the highest level I could. So that was another way of learning how to be present on your bike.

What we (Evie and her coach Neal Henderson) did for the HR was, we had a plan of what I was going to do. You have no info when you are on the bike, but he gave me the laps times on a lap card. But actually, during the last 15 minutes I was in such a state of pain. I was giving everything I could. So, I wasn’t looking at the lap times.

Before that, I had a video of the track and then I sat on an indoor trainer and I did it the Time Trial position, and I forced myself to ride for one hour, not that hard but just in the aero position, looking to the track in order to set myself mentally ready for all the thought that would come up. Then I had a mantra that I had throughout the hour. So, on the straightways I said “pedal”, and on the corners I said “push-pull”. It sounds very basic, but it was very useful to be present on the bike.

What about going downhill inside a peloton? When you started your career it was definitely a big deal, a core skill or point you needed to strengthen. 

It is still something I struggle with it today. Some days it is great, some days it is not as great. First I had to learn actually how to go downhill. When you think about it, I was 26 and I had hardly ridden a bicycle. Then, I was racing in the Giro, bombing down descents with women who had ridden forever.

So, the first step was actually learning how to downhill correctly. I had a lot great teachers throughout the years. I had Lars Teutenberg, who is my teammate Ina-Yoko Teutenberg’s brother, who came to Girona, when I was living there, to give me three days of descending. It was like the hardest three days ever, but that really help.

Then, a lot for me is just purely mental. Just be in the right state of mind, having the confidence to take in right wheel. When I stay back on my teammate Lizzie Armitstead’s wheel I can go down anything. So a lot of times it depends on what wheel I am at rather than the mental state that I am in.

After a very successful or remarkable 2012, this 2016 season (despite the fact that you had a late start to the road season due to the HR attempt preparation) you have shown such a dominant level or fit. 

2012 was my best season to date. This season was quite good as well. Also in 2012, I was pretty new, didn’t have many expectations and I was able to win. This year I feel like I got back to that same level.

I had my crash in 2013 which I think kind of change my pack a little bit in my cycling career. 2012 was great. I think I had some really good wins in the years in between but, this year I think I got back to that level, which it’s been really my goal and kind of allowed me to retire as a champion.

BOELS-PLOUAY--21809
Hats off to Evie from her Boels Dolmans teammates in Plouay @ Cor Vos

10-Short Questions

  1. Favourite race: Fleche Wallonne.
  2. Favourite team&room-mate: Lizzie Armitstead, Karol-Ann Canuel, Chantal Blaak or Nikki Harris.
  3. Favourite climb or hill: Mur de Huy.
  4. Favourite performance meal: Eggs, avocado, rice and parmesan.
  5. Favourite training route or loop: In San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge, up Mount Tam and back home.
  6. Greatest ambition in the sport? What’s on your personal bucket list? To be a good legacy within the sport, always race with integrity, always race with my heart and hopefully that other women in the peloton, my teammates, other people watching the sport will do that.
  7. Biggest cycling or sport admiration: Connie Carpenter-Phinney, also my mentor in the sport.
  8. Biggest achievement in your cycling career: Fleche Wallonne or the Team Time Trial (TTT) World Championships.
  9. Toughest moment in your cycling career: Coming back after the crash on my face in 2013.
  10. Best attack/sprint you have delivered during a race: Fleche Wallonne, when I beat Marianne Vos.

 

Interviewee:
Evelyn Stevens

Interviewer:
Diego Martín

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