It has been a summer of ups and downs for American Lauren Stephens. It began with the disappointing news that she had not made the final Olympic Games selection for the US road cycling team. That was followed two days later with an upbeat performance and repeat victory in the 100-mile race for Unbound Gravel.
The TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank rider opted for the shorter of the two pro races in Emporia, Kansas, to save something for the US Pro Road National Championships two weeks later. That paid high dividends, as Stephens launched her attack in Knoxville, Tennessee on the final Sherrod Road climb and rode solo for more than 10 kilometres for the title.
Now Stephens is targeting the physical ups and downs on the challenging Black course of SBT GRVL this Sunday. Opportunities are already there for her to move to the top step of the podium and take a champion’s cowboy hat, as the 2019 women’s winner, Australian Brodie Chapman, is racing the Ladies Tour of Norway for her FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope road team. She’s got a strategy for new equipment this time around and hopes to have an advantage of not doing the LeadBoat challenge.
“I finished second at the last SBT to my teammate Brodie Chapman. We were the only girls remaining in the front group when I cut a tire,” Stephens told Cyclingnews. “I did manage to win the cumulative QOM prize!! I guess it helps to be chasing.
“Last SBT I ran slick 40mm tires. This year I’ll be running Vittoria Terreno Zero 38mm tires (which measure about 40mm anyway). These tires have a smooth centre tread to be fast on the road but also have some side knobs to give you bite on the gravel. Best of both worlds.”
Last time out in Steamboat Springs, Chapman and Stephens, both racing for TIBCO-SVB, finished in the top 25 overall. Stephens crossed the line less than three minutes behind the Aussie, and 20 seconds ahead of her husband Mat Stephens.
This time around, Mat will race Leadville Trail 100 MTB on Saturday and Lauren will focus on SBT GRVL on Sunday, both opting out of a LeadBoat doubleheader ride.
“Leadboat is a challenge in itself. I think most of the girls aren’t expecting to be in the lead group come Sunday. But I think some will surprise themselves,” Stephens said about the 24 women racing both events this year.
“In 2019 Mat pulled a double by racing Gravel Worlds on Saturday in Nebraska, hopping in the car and driving to Steamboat to race SBT GRVL on Sunday. In the past, I’ve tagged along with Mat, who’s been racing mostly gravel the last several years [racing for Lauf/Voler]. Now Mat is the Team TIBCO Silicon Valley Bank gravel director.”
Road is still a focus for the reigning US road champion, who sports the stars-and-stripes jersey on gravel, saying “wearing the national kit is pretty much fair game” since the dirt scene doesn’t have many rules in that area. She just renewed her contract for TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank for another two seasons, having been with the team now since 2013.
“I’m so happy to be part of Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank for another two seasons," Stephens said. “The team continues to be the perfect fit, just like it has been for more than a decade.”
This season she contested eight one-day European races on the road before winning Unbound Gravel 100, including a 10th in Gent-Wevelgem. After winning the national road crown, she’s back to gravel with a third at The Rift Gravel in Iceland, and second place at the 82-mile Rooted Vermont.
The past days have seen the Stephens training at altitude near Leadville, Lauren posting to social the beauty from above Turquoise Lake. She’s on form and headed to a Rocky Mountain high.
“To me, gravel is a place where I can be serious on the bike but as soon as the race is over it doesn’t matter how it went. It’s time to relax and have fun with the rest of the participants,” she said. “The best part of gravel is there are basically no rules or we just make them up as we go.”
Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).
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