As every edition of Giro Rosa, this one which just finished gave us pleasant surprises. No doubt, one of them was the “renaissance” of Evelyn Stevens. The former Wall Street broker has shown a display of power, winning both 2 uphill stages plus the ITT. Thus, we had the chance to witness her overwhelming charisma again on top of the podium. Evie is unique, and with this article we want to make our very personal tribute to this extraordinary rider whom we fell in love with some years ago.
Just after the personal encounters (back in 2013) we are going to detail farther on , Evie travelled to Zambia as a supporter of World Bike Relief, a project to empower poor communities with bicycles. And then she won Amgen Tour of California’s ITT and donated her prize money, around 5.000 dollars, to the same organization.
Isn’t this extraordinary? As extraordinary as the moments we spent with her once upon a time in the rainy Basque Country.
Yolanda: I met Evelyn Stevens for the first time in June 2013. The race was Euskal Emakumeen Bira. That edition of the only UCI race held in Spain was particularly dramatic as regards the weather. Every day was pouring with rain and the temperatures were unusually low for that time of the year.
My first approach to Evie was in the time trial. Riders waiting their turn next to the start ramp.
I spotted her sitting next to Fabiana Luperini. The Italian, by that time riding for Faren Let’s Go Finland team, was asking for water to her mechanic, but apparently he had no bottle within his reach. Without hesitating, Evie handed hers to Fabiana in a very natural way. Of course, bathed in Evie’s smile. That simple gesture impressed me in a very positive way. Yes, I know riders and teams help one another quite often in many ways. But Evie’s handling the treasured liquid in that very moment seemed to me of a truly authentic nature.
Saul: That was lovely, and I witnessed it as well. But I’m going back a little bit further to get the whole picture. The first time I ever heard about Evelyn Stevens was on April 18th, 2012. Yes, the day she won Flèche Wallonne. I had been following the race the same way we still do nowadays: via Twitter updates. And her victory was a huge surprise. Curious person as I am, couldn’t help typing her name on Google. There was a superb write up by Steve Friedman titled “Happily, Evie After” that caught my attention. Wow, her story was truly unique! We all know about her past life now, so I won’t talk about it here.
I must say I became an instant fan. So I was really excited a year later when I saw her name on the startlist of the Emakumeen Bira 2013, the UCI women’s race closest to my place (that’s about 400 km away). I had started to write for the now defunct site Cobbles & Hills since the start of the season and got an accreditation for the Bira.
You were just a fan and didn’t write for any cycling site back then, right?
Saul: Our site’s policy stated that all the staff members should act professionally, avoiding any sign of fanboyism at the races. But I was too young in the business and quickly forgot the common sense, it seems. I could only attend the race during the weekend, which meant both 3rd and 4th stages. The former was an individual time trial. I arrived some minutes before the start of the first rider, and voilá! The very first rider I spotted was a familiar face. The one and only Evie Stevens was having a relaxed warming-up ride on her TT bike in the streets of Orduña, and she was pedalling towards me. As she passed by I couldn’t help yelling “EVELYN!!!” She stopped with a huge smile, and then I supposed I had to say something if I didn’t want to look stupid, so I said an emphatic “Hi!”, as if she knew me, which of course she didn’t. But she answered back like she did, and then continued her ride.
Right after that first impression I focused on tweeting the rider’s times and hopefully getting an interesting interview for the site with race winner Emma Johansson. Yeah, serious journalism instead on fanboy yelling, for once.
But you know, it was the next day when Evie really did something we will never forget. Your turn.
Yolanda: Days of racing went on. The constant cold and rain made us enjoy bars and coffees more than the usual. In the last day, Evie was third in the GC (Emma Johansson won and Elisa Longo Borghini was second). She was one of the best-known faces at the start of stage 4. In fact, her “face” was the topic to start a conversation which became fluid from the very first second. She had had her worst crash some months before, and her scars were (still are) visible under her nose and on her upper lip. I will never forget how I spotted her, me sheltered under my raincoat, in her Specialized-lululemon outfit. She showed me, very proudly, how well those scars were healing and her perfect teeth. We talked races, her huge win in Flèche 2012 and she made some jokes in Spanish (she was living in Girona at that time). But the topics themselves were not the main thing. She is an open, joyful and relaxed rider. And a clown. The words themselves will not be kept in my memory forever. But her charm, that will be.
Saul: As you say, the 4th and final stage started (and finished) with pouring rain. I was actually trying to spot you before the start in order to share some impressions. Saw you among the riders, apparently having a chat with someone. Yes, it was Evie. I joined the conversation. Of course, I don’t recall the exact words either, but I do remember how charming, likeable and down to earth she was. And funny! I had an umbrella, so I covered her until the stage started. It was a 10 minutes chat, maybe. I recall telling you afterwards that Evie had been even more amazing than I thought she would be before I met her.
Of course the journalist in me asked her for an interview after the stage. She said she would be happy to be interviewed if she had time enough. You may remember we improvised and wrote down a few questions while we were chatting with Anton Vos in that bar, as we were waiting for the stage finish. I might still have that rough draft somewhere, as it brings nice memories. Ultimately, we couldn’t find the time for a proper interview, but we got something way more amazing instead!
Yolanda: Indeed! After the podium ceremony some fans went to the backstage, trying to grasp the last minutes of chats, wavings or interchange of impressions with riders. Emma, Elisa, Marianne went down the stairs, flying to find some shelter. And Evie came to us and, with a huge smile, handed her trophy to us: “this is for you, guys. Thanks for your support”.
Saul: Those were her exact words. I do remember that. And also my own reaction: “Wow. I don’t have words for this…” Whenever I look at my room’s corner and see the trophy, I still can’t quite believe it. I’m sure it was the same for you when you had it at your home for a year.
— Saul Thonolan (@kapelmuur29) 9 de junio de 2013