Q and A with Evelyn Stevens: Against the clock at World Championships

Only two women have been part of all three UCI Road World Championship winning team time trial squads with Specialized-Lululemon: Trixi Worrack and Evelyn Stevens. Now that the two are on separate teams - Worrack remaining with the Velocio-SRAM outfit that won those three gold medals, while Stevens will take the start with Boels Dolmans on Sunday, there can be only one four-time winner, if any. Stevens hopes the home soil advantage will give her the edge, and carry her through the individual time trial and road race, too.

Cyclingnews: There has to be a big competition between you, Velocio-SRAM and Rabo-Liv for the team time trial (TTT) championship. Do you think you'll be able to take home win number four?

Evelyn Stevens: It's a huge goal for our team, as it is for almost every women's team. It's a great way to showcase the equipment you're on, how you ride as a team, etc. There's going to be a lot of competition. [The Vargarda TTT World Cup in] Sweden was a good example of how close it really was - with Rabo winning and Velocio beating us by two seconds. I think it's going to be really tight. I can't wait, I'm just thrilled to be able to do it in the US.

CN: Was it surprising that Rabo-Liv won in Sweden by over 30 seconds?

ES: Not in my opinion. They have a really strong team, I think that course was a little bit climbier - but they're good. The level is high right now in women's cycling, so the challenge is ... I don't think there is any sure winner on Sunday. That will make it really exciting, every second is going to count. Velocio/Lulu is the only team who has won it. They're very good at it, and I know they'll be good on Sunday. It's been a big focus for us, too.

CN: Has your equipment sponsor Specialized done anything special for Worlds?

ES: This has been the focus from the beginning, we've gone over course analysis, aerodynamics, formation, all the details add up. Today was the first day I've ridden most of the TTT course. I came after nationals and rode the individual (ITT) course. The TTT course is beautiful. Most of the ITT course is inside Richmond, and this is outside of town a bit, and the roads are nice.

CN: Is the course technical at all? Or is it a straightforward power course?

ES: I haven't seen the TTT in its entirety. I can't have a full answer, I don't think it's super technical. It seems similar to the past two TTTs - it's a good way to demonstrate the power and the speed of the team.

CN: The climb up Governor Street at the end seems like it's going to be pretty painful.

ES: The climb - the time is the fourth rider, and it's almost easier to have it at the end than the beginning. At the beginning you need to pace it correctly, but at the end, you just have to ride to the speed of the fourth rider, and that person just needs to hold on and go as hard as they can to the finish line.

CN: What is the line-up for Sunday? I know Chantal Blaak has been nursing a back injury.

ES: It's the same team as Sweden, except Ellen [van Dijk] will be racing instead of Romy [Kasper]. Chantal [Blaak], Lizzy [Armitstead], Christine [Majerus], and Kasia [Pawlowska]. Ellen had an injury so she didn't race Sweden, but she's here now. Chantal had a little back injury, but she seems to be doing much better now. She's a tough cookie.

CN: After the TTT, you've got the individual time trial. Will that be your main focus, or the road race or both?

ES: I think the TT events are the big focus, we have a few days after that to reset for the road race.

CN: Obviously the ITT is going to be important not just for a chance at the rainbow jersey but as a qualifying race for the Olympic Games in Rio. Is that added pressure?

ES: The ITT is important. They changed the qualifications lately and to be honest I haven't read them. I always want to be great on the day I race big events, and often if you race well you get to do the other races. I like to focus on the race at hand, and it would be incredible to race well in the US. It would be great to do well in any World Championship, but to do it on home soil would be a dream.

In 2012 I got silver, in 2013 I was fourth and last year I was third. The past few years I've been a contender, so it's nice to have that confidence coming in. It's been a focus. I have great equipment, great support and a great team around me. That's the beauty of time trialing, it's just about you. Of course my competitors matter, but in the moment it's just about what I do, how I do it, how I prepare and that's the only thing I can control.

CN: You're going up against Kristin Armstrong, who has quite the pedigree when it comes to time trials. Is she beatable?

ES: There are so many good women right now. I don't see her at many races because she's not on the European circuit. I'm thinking about Anna van der Breggen, Lisa Brennauer, Ellen van Dijk. I only saw Kristin at nationals, and I haven't raced her so I don't know where she's at. She's always a good time trialist. Of course they all matter, but it's not like we're in a road race and you're racing against someone. In the TT it's just you and the bike.

CN: I saw some funny comments on Twitter from your teammates who were struggling to find a healthy breakfast in America. Do you think the comfort of being in your own country will be an advantage at Worlds?

ES: I'm protective of America - any time we go anywhere you have to try and find healthy options. The image of America is unhealthy but I don't really believe that. You just have to know how to find the right ones. It's the same as Belgium with frites, beer and chocolate. Every country has unhealthy options it's just a matter of navigating the situation. We're the land of kombucha and super foods as well, so ... I'm protective of being American. I'm proud of it, so I want to feel like as the only American racing the TTT, I want to show my teammates the good things in this country and how wonderful a country this is.

It's fun to watch my European teammates experience a little of what we experience when we're in Europe - just that little bit of discomfort. But most of us are professional, and we know how to perform under adverse conditions, so I don't think it will be a big factor. But the home soil is an obvious mental advantage.

CN: The US team for the road race is one of the strongest I've seen in years. Megan Guarnier has been riding strong all year, as have you and Coryn Rivera as well. Is it the best chance to win you’ve had in a while?

ES: I think it's a really strong squad. I'm excited. We're in the US, which is huge for us. It's an interesting course - it's a very hard one, it's very dynamic. We have a few cards to play. The main thing is we just have to ride as a team, be calm and ride smart. Any time, with the big races, the people who have been performing on the top all year are the ones who will be on the top at the world championships. It's a long, hard race. The climbs will become a factor as the race goes on. It's going to build in the legs. I think you have to have a few options, be smart, and confident on the course.

CN: I saw that Megan's race bike vanished on her way home. Has she found it yet?

ES: Megan has her training bike. I think she's fine. We're professional, so if she has a bike and she can train, she'll be fine. Her fitness is good anyway.

CN: She has been really consistent all year, do you think you'll end up racing for her, or vice versa?

ES: We have so many good players on the team - I think I've proven this year I can be a good teammate. You take your chances when you get them, but at the same time I love to help my teammates do well. It depends on the road how the race plays out.

CN: This has to be a great way to end the season, racing in your own country.

ES: I'm pumped. I was out there training today - I thought how cool is this? I have my professional team racing in the US, my family's coming. I get married the week after Worlds, so it's an exciting time for me. The plan is to have bachelorette party on Saturday night after the road race!

The main thing is we want to show Americans what bike racing is, and how good the women are, how strong we are. It's a good opportunity to get more people on bikes and paying attention to what we do.

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Laura Weislo
Managing Editor

Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's specialises in covering doping, anti-doping, UCI governance and performing data analysis.