Member of SLO-based cyclist team found dream in biking she got involved in mountain- and road-bike racing

Just a few years ago, Evelyn Stevens logged long hours as an associate for an investment bank on Wall Street.

She’d ridden a bike from time to time, but only to get from point A to B. When friends trained for marathons, Stevens accompanied them on long training runs, but she never raced.

That changed over Thanksgiving weekend in 2007, when Stevens visited her sister in San Francisco and tried a cyclocross race — an often-muddy combination of mountain and road biking. The following year, she bought a low-end Cannondale.

“At the time, spending $1,000 on a bicycle was a little extravagant,” she said.Today, the 27-year-old is one of 11 women on Team HTC-High Road, the San Luis Obispo-based professional cycling team.

“To be at High Road was an ultimate goal for me,” Stevens said Friday, a day before she participated in the inaugural SLO GranFondo with several other HTC riders and about 600 participants. “It was incredible that they took a risk on someone so new in the sport.”

Raised in Acton, Mass., outside of Boston, Stevens played tennis at Dartmouth College and started working as an analyst at Lehman Brothers in New York after she graduated in 2005. After two years there, she joined then-investment fund Gleacher Mezzanine.

A clinic in June 2008 in Central Park taught Stevens the basics on racing, from how to sign up for a race to racing etiquette.

Stevens started participating in races in the New York area — and started winning, first at the Union Vale road race in upstate New York, and then at the four-day Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont.

She hired a coach, Matthew Koschara, a former professional rider, to steer her career, plan her training schedule and give emotional support.

In June 2009, Stevens left her job. A month later, she won the four-day Fitchburg Longsjo Classic in Massachusetts as an amateur riding as a guest with the Lip Smacker pro team, which was followed by a win at the Cascade Classic Cycling stage race in Bend, Ore.

It was at the Route de France — a six-day race in which Stevens won a stage and took second overall — that she first met with representatives from HTC.

High Road staff had heard of Stevens and had been keeping an eye on her wins in the United States, said Kristy Scrymgeour, who manages HTC’s marketing and communications and hired Stevens.

“At first I kind of laughed,” Scrymgeour said. “She’d only been on her bike a couple of months. I paid closer attention after that and she continued to do well.”

Scrymgeour said Stevens has the attitude it takes to be a great bike rider: someone who is willing to race hard for themselves, but also willing to look out for their teammates.

One of the highlights this past year came on the final stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic in March, in which Stevens worked hard to help teammate Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of Germany win the overall title. The day was hot and hilly, and Stevens appeared to have left all she had on the road.

“It was brilliant to see,” Scrymgeour said. “She sacrificed everything for her new teammate. Right at the end, Ina said, ‘Attack now,’ and anyone else would have said, ‘Are you crazy?’ Evelyn attacked and won the stage. She was super excited and that set her up, motivation-wise, for the rest of the year.”

Stevens relocated in July to Girona, Spain, where she revels in the hot weather and the cycling culture. She is still working on the technical challenges of racing on small streets surrounded by other cyclists.

But racing in Europe has given Stevens a different perspective of the countryside — different from how a tourist would see it, anyway.

“If you look up you can see really amazing things, but I’m mostly trying to stay alive in the peloton,” she said.