North American Woman, International Women’s Climber of the Year: Evelyn Stevens
Evelyn Stevens used to be known as the cyclist who dropped a career in investment banking to focus on professional cycling. Now, she should be known as the cyclist who dropped Marianne Vos — the queen of cycling and one of the most dominant and skilled cyclists, male or female, in history — on her way to her first World Cup victory at Flèche Wallonne Femmes. She outfoxed Vos up the storied Mur de Huy climb to claim the first win by an American woman in the race.
“This is my most exciting win ever, easily. I never thought I would be in Flèche Wallonne, let alone win it someday,” Stevens said.
By now, her story is well known. In 2008, her job with the bankrupt Lehman Brothers could pay no better than cycling, and Stevens made the jump. She started racing with a local club in New York City, and in 2009 Stevens won both the Cascade Cycling Classic and the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic while guest riding for domestic teams. A pair of national TT titles followed.
This year, however, was different. A move to Boulder, Colorado, where she trained with housemate Taylor Phinney and his riding mates, helped improve both her fitness and her handling skills. In February, riding for the U.S. national team, Stevens, 29, won the five-stage Tour of New Zealand; in April she won Flèche and the four-stage Gracia-Orlova in Italy; in May, she won the inaugural Exergy Tour in Idaho.
But it was her performances at the Giro Donne and the world championships that turned heads. In stage 3 of the women’s Giro, Stevens soloed home for a 12-second victory, snatching the pink jersey from Vos in the process. Though Vos would grab it back — she would take five of the nine stages, along with the points competition jersey — the Massachusetts native claimed third overall.
Stevens saved some of her best for last. In August she won two stages and the overall at La Route de France, and in September, just one week before the world championships in Valkenburg, she finished second overall, to Vos, at the oddly-named Brainwash Ladies Tour of Holland.
In Valkenburg, Stevens again showed her class. The newly reinstated team time trial saw her Specialized-lululemon storm to a gold medal on the opening day of competition. And to cap off her exceptional season, the always-smiling Stevens claimed a silver medal in the individual time trial, just like her housemate, Phinney. If it hadn’t been for the mastery of Germany’s Judith Arndt, who crested the top of the Cauberg 33 seconds faster in her farewell victory, Stevens would have had a second gold medal.
Still, a silver medal ain’t too shabby for a third-year pro. — CHRIS CASE