Two years of the newly-designed course in the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic, two Evelyn Stevens victories. The 31 year old Stevens, who bikes for Specialized-Lululemon took home the 2014 race, edging out Twenty 16 & Co.’s Lex Albrecht in the final 25 meters. Lauren Hall from Optum finished third.
Stevens knew she had a target on her back, but overcame the added pressure of being the reigning champ to perservere through another 60 mile race and prevail at the end.
“This is such a special race,” Stevens said. “To win last year was special, but it is always hard to follow up when you are the one that is the favorite. It is nice. It takes a little weight off your shoulders.”
Steven’s Specialized-Lululemon teammates: Carmen Small, Tayler Wiles, Karol-Ann Canuel and Ally Stacher were key in helping her conserve energy for the final push.
“The team, if you watched the race, they laid it all on the line for me,” Stevens said. “When Carman (Small) went, and I went off of her, I knew I had to completely empty my tank. This year I thought I lost the podium in the last 25 meters. I was not going to look back or give up until I was over that line.”
Stevens is now the only winner of the redesigned Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic, which rearranged it’s route so that the finish line is atop the vaunted Manayunk Wall.
Allison Powers had a minute-plus lead most of the race, pacing the pack. She wore the Stars and Stripes jersey for her United Health Care squad as the top finisher at last weekend’s U.S. Cycling Championships. She finished 29 seconds better than the second place finisher in Chatanooga last Saturday. This year, she couldn’t keep up her tepid pace for all six laps, and ended up finishing in 47th.
Instead of hanging back and conserving energy, Powers decided to try and build a lead big enough that she couldn’t be caught. She had the other riders thinking that as well.
“Four laps by yourself on this course would be pretty (tough),” Stevens said of Powers. “Part of me was like ‘gosh maybe she could do it because she is so good right now.’”
Interestingly enough, the plan going into the race for Specialized-Lululemon was not to have Stevens to win, but one of her teammates that would get the final push. Instead, the team made a change on the fly that led to the repeat performance.
“Karol-Ann is a great climber,” Stevens said. “She was actually supposed to be the one saved. I was going to go early and she was going to fall off for me. It changed it up. Taylor (Wiles) and I got stuck behind a crash second to last lap and Taylor any Ally (Stacher) dug in deep to get me back on.”
Sunday’s victory was Stevens’ first road win since June 15th, 2013 when she won a stage of the Giro Trentino. The Philly Cycling Classic is the only U.S. Cycling event that gives equal prize money to the men and women, with a cash prize pool of $31,000. For her burst in the first five laps, Powers locked up the Queen of the Mountain and spring prizes for being the fastest on two designated areas of the course, an uphill stretch at Lemon Hill for the QOTM and a flat stretch on Kelly Drive for the sprint. A $1,000 prize was also given out to the top finisher under the age of 25, going to Kristabel Doebel-Hickock.
Stevens resides in Boulder, Co., and graduated from Dartmouth where she played tennis. She worked in investment banking in New York City until 2009, when she quit her job on Wall Street to cycle full time. After her 19th career win on Sunday, it would seem obvious the decision to ditch the business casual attire for a cycling jersey has paid off.