Even as she and her teammates savoured victory in the women's team time trial World Championships, Specialized-lululemon's Evelyn Stevens praised the progress for women’s cycling over the last year. But she also pointed out that the battle to get her side of the sport on an equal footing with men’s racing is not over yet - particularly in the financial sphere.
A former worker in the finance industry before she turned to bike racing, Stevens was speaking during the team time trial press conference, won by Specialized-lululemon for a third straight year.
"We were looking at the prize money for the men's and women's team time trial and there is a massive discrepancy between the two." Stevens said. "I'm not complaining. I just want a better understanding of the discrepancy."
General awareness of that particular issue may be lacking, even if in some races, like the new La Course event this summer, prize money was identical to that won by the men in the Tour de France stage later on the same day. But Stevens recognised that overall women's cycling has benefited from a much higher media and social profile in 2014.
"This is my fifth year as a pro and this year it's a topic, people keep on asking me about it, the specifics and so on, stuff that was never discussed when I started."
"We're not the same as men's cycling, we're different, and fans are beginning to see that."
She cited races like the Tour of California and Colorado as "taking it in the right direction."
"There's a market for it [women's racing], the UCI are covering our races more and it's a really exciting time. I can't wait to see how women's cycling continues to go from here."
Back from a crash
Three Specialized-lululemon riders crashed whilst training on Saturday, but Stevens said that it had not been a setback on Sunday's ride to victory ahead of Orica-AIS, silver at 1:17, and Astana Bepink, bronze medallists at 2:19.
"I can't say there's anything more special than getting to win together - it's our staff, all the support people who help us get ready and rested, the best equipment...it gives me goose bumps."
"This race feels like Christmas, it's such a special event, it's the highlight of the year."
Asked how she felt after crashing, Stevens smiled broadly and said "like a million bucks." More seriously, she then added, "it happens, it's bike racing, I'm glad it happened in our training and not in the racing, and my shoulder is painful. But it was nothing serious."
As for the far worse crash suffered by the Rabo-Liv opponents, Stevens said she and here teammates had not been told about it when it happened. "We knew we had time on them, then we went past one rider on the road and the team car. I hope they're ok, something like that just sucks."
"The whole staff were great about the [Specialized lululemon training] crash, they made sure everybody was ok. Mentally and physically for sure it caused some stress," added her teammate Carmen Small.
"We tried to take the positive from the crash, all the girls were very positive about it, we were able to move on and focus and what we needed."
Orica-AIS gain silver
Silver medallists Orica-AIS were asked how they mentally approached a race with such standout favourites like Specialized-Lululemon also in the running.
"Its very important to stay focussed, a race is not over until you cross the finish line," the Australian team's Emma Johansson told reporters. "Anything can happen and you have to wait [for a definitive verdict] until you get to the finish."
"The course itself was more technical than it first appeared, too, but it's not only about the course, it's about using the right riders on the right parts. The sports director did an awesome job reading us as a team and riders, and that's the strongest point we had today."
Aliston Tetrick for Astana-BePink, the surprise bronze medallists, concurred with Johansson.
"We might not have been one of the favourites, but we did a great ride, a solid ride and we came together to get that medal. I've proud of the way we worked together."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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