Last night we saw Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team rider Evelyn Stevens smash the Women's UCI Hour Record. We were glued to the live stream at home, but Meredith Miller was on the ground watching, also spending time with Stevens in training and preparation. She and Jessi Braverman have encapsulated the atmosphere in the now historic velodrome, and shared the final hours leading up to Stevens' ultimately successful attempt...
Fifty eight minutes into her UCI Hour Record attempt, American Evelyn Stevens had surpassed the previous record of 46.822 kilometres held by Australian Bridie O’Donnell. When her incredible hour came to a close under the dome in the 7-Eleven Velodrome in Colorado Springs, Stevens had covered 47.980 kilometres. The mark is a mere 179 metres short of the all-time record set by Jeannie Longo 20 years ago using the now banned ‘Superman’ position.
“Today was the opportunity to be great," said Stevens. “It’s not common that you get a chance to set a world record."
Stevens, who rides for Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team, set her record on a 333-metre cement track with a newly constructed dome covering the venue. The velodrome sits at 6,035 feet of elevation (1839 metres), which provides an advantage of an estimated 1-2km/hour over sea level. The 32-year-old rode a consistent hour with lap times around 24.8-seconds for nearly the entire hour.
“It couldn’t have been a more perfect day with the temperature, pressure, a lot of other things that I don’t totally understand," she said with a laugh. “I had the best equipment out there, skinsuit, everything, so you know, I was able to hit my split times."
Her coach Neal Henderson called the pacing “close to perfect". Stevens is the second athlete Henderson has coached to a UCI Hour Record. He worked with Australian Rohan Dennis to set a new standard last February, which was bested by Alex Dowsett several months later in May and Bradley Wiggins one month after that.
“Stevens started with a full cup of energy, and she was pouring the last drops out in the last laps," said Henderson. “She was on the upper limit of what we knew she could do."
The lead up to the Hour: How did Stevens spend the hours before her record-setting ride?
Thursday morning: Stevens drove down to Colorado Springs from Boulder where she was staying with the Phinney family on Thursday morning. Coach Henderson accompanied Stevens. The duo left at 8:45am, arriving just before 10am at the track. She did a few “standing start" efforts on Thursday – which involved her working on her acceleration from a standstill out of a gig that held her bike on the start line.
48 Hours to go: Stevens and Henderson stayed at the Holiday Inn Express very near the Velodrome. Forty-eight hours before the effort she was back at the hotel and relaxing. Henderson, on the other hand, was at the track attempting an hour effort of his own. He wasn’t going for the record, rather he wanted to do a full all-out hour on the track so that he could simulate the effort his athlete would undertake two days later and collect valuable data about the physical and mental toll it would take to share with her.
26 hours to go: It was back to the track on Friday morning for the final training efforts. The workout was 3 x 5km efforts close to race pace, and 10 minutes of motorpacing. The final session provided Henderson and Stevens with confidence that Stevens was completely capable of breaking the record the following day.
While Stevens was undertaking her final training session, production crew and media were on-site setting up for the big day. They left Stevens to her training while they focused on their work. No one was allowed to speak to Stevens on Friday.
Henderson’s fellow coaches from Apex, Grant Holicky and Mac Cassin, were at the track with the duo – and played a jack of all trades role, stepping up to help with anything that was needed. Stevens’ head mechanic Daimo Shanks was on-site, and Dan Lee (Zipp) and Dan Stefiuk (SRAM) were there for final touches to the drive train and wheels.
22 hours to go: Friday at 2pm, Stevens finished her final session on the track. From the track, it was back to the hotel, an early dinner at Chipotle [her 'lucky' dinner venue as she ate there before she won her first TT!].
14.5 hours to go: Lights out at 9:30pm. Stevens had prioritised sleep and recovery all week, and she wasn’t about to blow her attempt with a late or restless night.
Five hours to go: Stevens woke up on Saturday about five hours before her 12pm start time. Her planned breakfast, eaten about four hours before the race, was what she called an “aggressive" size bowl of oatmeal with a large amount of peanut butter as well as a banana.
1.5 hours to go: Ninety minutes before her start time, at 10:30am, Stevens walked into the 7-11 Velodrome. She arrived before most of the crowd shuffled in, so it was fairly quiet.
Stevens focused on hydration and nutrition more than usual during her standard pre-race warm-up due to the long and demanding effort required. The media gave Stevens her space. Her bike, a Specialized Shiv modified specifically for the UCI hour record, garnered most of the attention by the media.
Four minutes to go: The U.S National Anthem played four minutes before the intended start time. Stevens walked out on to the track when the song came to an end. Although the start time was set for 12pm, it was not a strict, on the dot, start time. The clock for the hour would not start until she left the starting block, whenever she was ready.
Go: Stevens was underway on the track about 90 seconds after 12:00pm. She used the first lap to get up to speed but by lap two, she settled into a rhythm – and she was immediately on target for her record-breaking ride.
Six fun facts about Evie’s Hour:
- Stevens' first interview following her attempt was with Abby Henderson, her coaches’ nine-year-old daughter.
Image courtesy: Meredith Miller
- Stevens spent time in a sensory deprivation tank as mental preparation for her attempt. She described it as “floating in salt water while trying to stay focused."
- Slightly superstitious, Stevens planned a Chipotle dinner for the night before her attempt because of past success in time trials following Chipotle for dinner.
- Stevens can’t see any power figures or even speed or cadence during her attempt. She had to ride fully off feel and the lap times provided by her coach.
- Beyond training, Stevens two biggest concerns during the week leading up to her record were nutrition and recovery. She spent as much time horizontal as possible when she wasn’t on her bike with the goal of staying relaxed and off her feet. She jokingly referred to this as “monk mode".
- The previous record time – O’Donnell’s 46.822 – was printed on the sleeve of the Bioracer speedsuit Stevens wore during her record-breaking ride.
Want to know more about Evie? She's a sensational athlete, and we've had the pleasure of interviewing her twice - check out these stories:
For more about the UCI Women's Hour Record, check out this dedicated section on our site.