Would you give up everything you had in the pursuit of a dream?
Evelyn Stevens gave up her career as an investment banker in 2008 and ended up cycling for the U.S. Olympic team in London just three years later.
When Stevens graduated from Dartmouth College in 2005 she had a safe and lucrative career path in front of her—she would spend two years as an investment-banking analyst at Lehman Brothers and then move on to work for a smaller financial firm.
What she didn’t plan for was the economic crash of 2008. Lehman Brothers ceased to exist and the country toppled into recession.
“It was the summer of 2008, it was quite stressful,” Stevens tells The Daily Ticker in the accompanying interview. “You didn’t know if you were going to have a job, you were watching all your colleagues lose their jobs. You could just feel that the energy was, I would say, misplaced.”
Stevens bought a bike and started cycling on the weekends as a release for her work-related stress and anxiety. Although she had never biked before, she found that she had a talent and passion for it. She began entering and winning races.
When tested by her coach, Matt Koschara, it was discovered that her leg power was nearly equivalent to that of an elite professional. This is not entirely rare—cyclists often don’t realize their physiological potential until later in life because indicators tend to be internal things like leg and lungpower, explains Koschara.
After a year of biking, Stevens came to a crossroads. She could continue riding competitively on the weekends or she could devote herself full-time to professional cycling. The recession made her realize that the financial world was volatile and that there no longer was a “safe path.” With that in mind, she decided to follow her dreams and become a pro-biker.
“I went to my bosses and I think they were ready for me to ask for a business school recommendation but instead I said, ‘no actually I think I’m just going to go and bike,’” she explains.
Stevens packed up all of her belongings and quit her job.
“I gave away everything, I put it all on Craigslist…I was sitting there with one bike, one bag, and I just startedcrying. I was like ‘Oh my goodness, what have I done?’”
Stevens went on to win the U.S. National Time Trial Championships in 2010 and 2011. She competed in the 2012 summer Olympics, and though she only ranked 24th she still has gold medal dreams.
“I did London, I tasted it, I had the experience,” she says. “I want to win Rio. I’m going for the gold in Rio!”
Stevens hasn’t completely abandoned her investment banking background. She claims that the long hours on Wall Street have helped her keep a strong work ethic and commitment level while biking. She also plans on getting an MBA so that she can blend her Wall Street background with her passion for women’s cycling.