Stride Stories: Preparing for La Flèche Wallonne
In 2012, Stride athlete Evelyn Stevens won the Flèche Wallonne, one of the most important annual races for professional female cyclists. Tomorrow, she'll be back in Belgium, competing in the race once again.
We asked Evelyn to do an exclusive interview before the big day. Here's what she had to say about training and racing this season:
You’ve been based in Nice, France for the spring. How has that prepared you for the Ardennes/Flèche?
The riding in Nice is wonderful. There is a plethora of great training loops, wonderful climbs, and the views are incredible. The nice Mediterranean weather is a big plus as well. I am very fortunate and have found some wonderful people to train with, a great motorpacer, and a great person for sports massage. Any time you can train hard and recover just as hard, it is always a good recipe for racing.
Word on the street is that you’re training with the boys! What's that been like?
I have some great male and female training partners. One of the benefits of training with strong men (and women) is that you can hop on their wheel and it is like motorpacing. The best thing is when you find some solid training partners who push you on your rides and also who you have a fun time with on the bike. As professional cyclists we spend so many hours on the bike, so having good company makes your training better!
We noticed on Strava that you’ve been doing some simulated hill training on your trainer. What’s that all about?
I have been riding on this great virtual training program called Zwift. I love it for a rainy day or when I only have a short amount of time before I need to catch a flight. It is great; it gives you a sense of a riding community and some good competition, which help the time riding inside pass quickly!
What's the most transformative training tool that's influenced your riding?
I would have to say training with power from my Quarq is a hugely important part of my training. It allows me to see my data real time while riding and it also allows my coach, Neal Henderson, to monitor and analyze my training. The other really transformative training tool that has influenced my riding is always trying to work on my mental toughness and agility. It is one thing to be strong, but your mind and heart are what allow you to really deliver when it's important.
It is one thing to be strong, but your mind and heart are what allow you to really deliver when it's important.
You’ve said your move to a Dutch team after five years on US-managed teams isn’t much different for you. But has it changed your approach to the Ardennes? Is there a unique set of target races?
I have been lucky, both teams are both very professionally run, but the biggest difference this year is a bit different race schedule approach. This spring I have done a different set of races, some new ones and skipping some that I have done in the past.
Besides your team, what else is new for you this year?
Besides switching teams, the other big changes for this year have been working with Stride. My mind is definitely much more at ease this year when I am bombing down descents surrounded by a peloton of women. Additionally, I got engaged and will be getting married in October. 2015 has definitely started out as an exciting year!
How would it change your season if there was a women’s Amstel or Liege? Why isn’t there a women’s edition of each?
I think it would make the season more exciting for women's cycling; it would be another event to showcase the talent and depth of women's cycling. To be honest, I am not sure why there isn't a race for women. I hope, like many of the big one day classics, that they will also add a women's event in the future. Women's cycling is definitely on the up, and we are starting to see race organizers putting on more and more women events. It is definitely an exciting time to be a female professional cyclist and I am looking forward to being a part of its continued growth.
After your 2012 win, has Flèche Wallonne become an annual target race for you, or are there other targets that excite you more?
I love racing Flèche; I loved it even before I won it. I am also really excited for the Philly classic. This year it has returned to World Cup status and will definitely attract a lot of the top competition in the world. The Giro is one of my favorite stage races; it is 10 days and traverses all over Italy. I have never won it, and it would definitely be a dream to do well there. Lastly, I am super excited to race the World Championships this year on home soil! The Worlds will be held in Richmond, VA and it is the first time since 1988 that they have been in the US.
What will it be like racing against some of your former Specialized-Lululemon teammates who are competing for Team USA this year?
In the beginning of the season, there was definitely a second when I had to remember that they weren't my teammates in the race, but then I quickly realized that we were racing in different jerseys! But when I race with them on Team USA they are my teammates and we race great together. You spend a lot of time with your teammates and I have definitely remained close with a lot of my old teammates from Specialized-Lululemon.
Anything else we should know? Any tips to share with your fellow freelancers out there?
If you are like me, traveling all the time, putting yourself in precarious situations to fulfill your dreams and passions, and don't really understand how the healthcare system works or if you are even properly covered, take the time to check out Stride. It has definitely put my mind at ease as I have started my racing in 2015!