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SAN JOSE, Calif. (VN) — Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) wants to sound anything but ungrateful. The one-day-a-year spotlight the women racers get at the Amgen Tour of California is wonderful. Just not wonderful enough. Not hardly.
“You know, this is the United States, and women are supposed to be equal, right?” she said after her victory in a difficult time trial that preceded the sixth stage of the men’s eight-day race on a cloudless Friday.
“Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s really great that they have this race and I know we’re all grateful,” she said. “But come on. We put on a good show. Give us another day. That would be great. Three days? Greater.
“Personally? I want all eight.”
There quite likely couldn’t be a better poster rider, or a poster stage, than the one that began at the site where IBM develops its top secrets and ended atop a windy, brown hillside. Stevens started 30 seconds ahead of the last of 15 riders, Alison Powers (NOW-Novartis for MS), and the two played cat-and-mouse for most of the first three-quarters of the 31-kilometer course.
Their exchange, re-exchange, and re-re-exchange of leads over the initial climbs and along the long, crosswind-whipped middle section was interesting but inconsequential, Stevens said. She was paying more attention to her internal clock, the one she, coach Neal Henderson, and Specialized engineer Chris Yu mapped during her several reconnaissance runs in the days leading up to the time trial.
“A lot of thought and process went into it,” she said. “I rode the climb once and other parts maybe three times. I rode the descent maybe eight times. Then we went over analysis of where to save and where to put out the power.”
The location of the latter left little doubt. Powers, already trailing, stopped for a bike change and Stevens bolted up the final 2.5km climb of Metcalf Road to post the fastest time by nearly a minute.
Sadly, video and text coverage on the online Tour Tracker application cut out after third-place finisher Kristin McGrath rolled across the line. There was no video of the climb and no coverage of Stevens’ and Powers’ finishes for those watching from afar. Instead, online coverage switched to the early men’s starters. Equal, right?
After the men’s race, Stevens won again. The top finisher in the men’s stage, overall leader and new father Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), made it a point at a post-race news conference to back more women’s racing alongside the men. Van Garderen is married to former professional and organizer of the women’s challenge in Aspen, Jessica van Garderen (Phillips).
“It’s something I’ve always felt strongly about, but especially now that I have a daughter [newborn Rylan, on hand at the finish] who might want to be a bike racer, I think it’s something important that we have to do,” van Garderen said. “Not only is it great for women’s cycling but it’s also great for the spectators. The roads are already closed, so I don’t think it would be too much of an ask to put a women’s stage on probably every stage that we do.”
Stevens’ story is well known. She left a job in the financial industry for the pro peloton and she wants her former colleagues on Wall Street to pay attention.
“I want them to see this,” she said, and, she added, to open their portfolios.
“If I could tell them all something,” she said, “it would be, ‘hey guys, you should back this.’”