Stevens wins Exergy, stakes claim to Olympic berth
BOISE, Idaho (AP)
Evelyn Stevens won the Exergy Tour following a final-stage breakaway, firmly cementing her claim to a berth on the U.S. Olympic team for the London Games.
Stevens, of Boulder, Colo., took second place in a sprint with Germany's Claudia Haeusler after the 46.7-mile stage. But the 29-year-old Stevens finished far enough ahead of the pack to beat Amber Neben, of Lake Forest, Calif., for the overall title.
After Neben, Canada's Clara Hughes finished in third place after five days of racing. Stevens, Neben and Hughes all ride for Specialized-lululemon.
Stevens, a former Wall Street associate, takes home $10,000 for the overall win. She bought her first racing bike in 2008 and then became a cycling phenomenon.
''It's an honor to race here and it's an honor to represent the United States, hopefully,'' Stevens said. ''I'm a little bit later to the sport of cycling, so hopefully people can hear my story and realize it's never too late or never too early.''
The Exergy Tour wound its way through southwestern Idaho, making stops in the Snake River wine country, the mountains above the historic mining region surrounding Idaho City and concluding on the tree-lined streets just north of Boise's downtown.
The race had been anticipated as a showdown between three U.S. women: Stevens, the 2011 U.S. time trial champ; Neben, the 2008 world champion; and 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, from Boise. But Armstrong crashed on the first day, suffering a broken collarbone.
Stevens turned pro in 2009 after consulting with 1984 Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter.
''She called me and asked me, `Should I quit my day job,'' remembers Carpenter, who works as an analyst for the Exergy Tour.
''I asked her, `Well, how much money are you making at your job now?''' Carpenter said. ''But it turns out it was a good decision.''
At a post-race press conference, Stevens said she had no regrets about leaving the investment fund where she worked until 2009.
''This is a lot better than investment banking,'' she said.
Armstrong was relegated to watching her teammates on Exergy 2012, instead of racing for the title.
After undergoing surgery Friday, Armstrong said she'd already pedaled her bicycle around her Boise neighborhood and was planning to train in a wind tunnel in San Diego later this week.
''I was going to take a break after the Exergy Tour, anyway,'' Armstrong said, before Monday's final stage.
Armstrong believes her own Olympic time trial hopes are intact, after beating Stevens in three races earlier this year.
''As far as selection criteria goes, I don't have any worries in my mind,'' Armstrong said.
USA Cycling makes its selection on June 15. The United States will likely field a team of four riders, two of whom will ride the London time trial.
Like Armstrong and Neben, Stevens said she's hoping to be one of them.
''I knew it was a big year, it's the Olympic year,'' Stevens said. ''I kind of just did everything I could this off season, and this race season, I put my head down and let my legs do the speaking. If they have done enough speaking, to get me the spot, great. If not, then I think we have amazing women in America that can represent the U.S.''