News: In a few days, 32-year-old American Evelyn Stevens from Boels-Dolmans will make her attempt to break the iconic Hour Record at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center Velodrome in the United States. It will be the fourth time that the women’s record has been tested since 2014, when the rules for attempting the record were modernised and simplified by the UCI.
Stevens came into cycling in 2008 when she enrolled in a bike clinic in New York. After winning her first professional race there, she decided to embark upon a career as a professional cyclist, leaving her job as an analyst at a Wall Street investment firm to make the career change. Now after more than six years as a professional cyclist, in addition to attempting the Hour Record later this week, Stevens is also setting her sights high for the rest of the season, aiming to bring home both UCI Road World Championship and Olympic gold medals later this year.
The current Hour Record of 46.882km was set by Australian Bridie O’Donnell last month in Adelaide, Australia, and it’s a distance that Stevens has admitted sets the bar quite high. Despite this, it looks like she stands a good chance of breaking the record, judging from the data produced at her recent training rides at the Colorado Velodrome, where she either met or surpassed all the targets set by her coach Neal Henderson, who also helped Rohan Dennis break the Hour Record last year.
Preparations for this week’s record attempt already started last November, focusing specifically on core strength training, improved time trial positioning and even aerodynamics in the Specialized wind tunnel. Her most recent specific training in the velodrome also consisted of several groups of laps, the first of which started below speed and gradually built up to finish above her target pace. Power meter data as well as oxygen and lactate levels were also tested by her coach to tailor a more science-based strategy to tackling the record.
Stevens is undoubtedly a fiercely competitive athlete. She’s a former Olympian and U.S. time trial champion, a multiple medallist in the World Championships time trial discipline, and winner of last season’s Amgen Tour of California Women’s time trial. She most recently finished sixth in the time trial World Championships in 2015, where she also won the team time trial with Boels-Dolmans.
Her coach is confident that she can break the current record set by O’Donnell, and potentially outperform Jeannie Longo’s “best human effort” of 48.159 km, which she set in Mexico twenty years ago, but achieved by adopting the now-banned aerodynamic “superman” position. Another factor that might work in Stevens’ favour is the elevation of the velodrome in Colorado Springs, which sits at just over 6,000 feet above sea level, and should give her an advantage of 1-2km/h compared to sea level conditions.
As for her plans following the Hour Record attempt, Stevens will return to Europe to ride with Boels-Dolmans and also try to secure a place on the U.S. team for the Rio Olympic Games. With only four spots on the road race team and two for the time trial event, it will no doubt be a highly competitive selection process. However, Stevens is hoping that the training she put into this week’s Hour Record attempt will improve her time trial position and flat power, which she felt she lacked at last year’s World Championships in Richmond. Preparing for the Hour Record should also see her overall fitness improve heading into the year, and hopefully bring in more top-level performances throughout the coming season.