Evelyn Stevens doesn’t want to break the current women’s UCI Hour Record, which stands at 46.882km, she wants to demolish it. Speaking with a small group of journalists in a phone conference Friday, the American did not specify a targeted distance but rather simply said, “I would like to really, really beat it. I want to set a high example.”
Stevens will make her UCI Hour Record attempt on February 27 in the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center Velodrome. She announced her plan to do so at the beginning of February, two weeks after Australian Bridie O’Donnell set the new benchmark at the Super-Drome in Adelaide.
“I want to beat it, and I want to set a high example,” Stevens told the press. “We are going to have another training [session] tomorrow, which will give a bit more insight as to where I’m at and what will be the realistic target.”
Stevens chose to attempt the Hour Record in February for few reasons. Mainly, so that it didn’t conflict with her upcoming road season with Boels Dolmans or her stated goal of securing a spot on the US team to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August. In an interview with Cyclingnews, she said that 2016 was the year that she had to do everything right with regard to the Olympics. It would also give her an opportunity to improve her time trial.
“My team has been supportive and encouraging of this event,” Stevens said. “They recognise the benefits that it will bring to me and the team. Since I’m doing it on February 27, I’ll only be missing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the season isn’t in full swing yet. I’ll do this and then head to Europe.
“For me, February seemed to make a lot of sense [too] because it was something nice for me to target over the winter and I’m looking forward to taking this fitness and time on my time trial position into the season. I wanted to improve my flat power in my time trial position."
But why attempt something as notoriously painful as an Hour Record in general? World-class athletes thrive on ways to push their bodies to their limits and the Hour Record is the perfect event for a cyclist like Stevens to test those limits.
“I’ve never done it,” Stevens said. “I like new challenges, and I’m always trying to push myself to new limits. I thought this would be a great opportunity to do that.
“This is just me and 60 minutes. Mentally this will be one of the most challenging things I have ever done, and that’s what was so appealing to me about it. If I could actually control my body and my mind for 60 minutes, and make them do what I want them to do.”
For Stevens, it isn’t just about athleticism but also about showcasing women’s cycling. She will be the second American to attempt the Hour Record after Molly Shaffer Van Houweling broke the long-standing record of 46.065km that Leontien van Moorsel set without aerodynamic gear in Mexico City in 2003. Van Houweling rode 46.273km in September 2015 in Aguascalientes, Mexico, only to be beaten by O’Donnell four months later.
Stevens’ trade teammate Ellen Van Dijk also stated that she would attempt the Hour Record during the Boels Dolmans team presentation in January.
“I find the Hour Record to be another opportunity for women’s cycling to be highlighted and covered,” Stevens said. “I would love to see more of the women that I race with come out and do the Hour Record after I attempt it.”
Stevens said that a lot of physical and mental training have gone into her Hour Record attempt. She began full-blown training for it in November and since has had three training sessions at the velodrome in Colorado Springs, which she has combined with her traditional road training. She has spent time with her sports psychologist to work on building her mental stamina for the 60-minute event.
“[My psychologist] has given me tips about being present during the Hour Record and not thinking about what I’ll be doing or what might happen in 10 minutes. Every pedal stoke will be essential… and I’ve worked on what puts me into that tunnel vision and what takes me out of it.”
Her coach Neal Henderson also worked with Australian Rohan Dennis ahead of his Hour Record attempt, and Stevens said that Dennis has given her some friendly advice on what to expect from the effort.
“One of the main things is that I haven’t been racing yet, so there is always the question, 'are you good enough, fit enough, and ready to do it?’ It’s nice to know that Rohan had Neal coaching him. He had a program, did it very well, and so, I feel very confident in my preparation going into it.
“I’ve talked to Rohan about it, and he was pretty funny, telling me that ‘it’s going to be the most painful thing that you are ever going to do but it’s worth it’. He also told me the start is crucial and not to overcook it.”