BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Five years ago, Evelyn Stevens didn’t own a road bike.
Now, she’s headed to London to represent the U.S. in the road race at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Stevens discovered her cycling gift while working as an investment banker on Wall Street in 2008, when her sister convinced her to enter a cyclocross event.
It didn’t take her long to quit her day job. By July 2009, she was a full-time professional cyclist.
“I was 26 when I left my job,” Stevens said. “I don’t think I actually thought too much about it; I think if I thought too much about it and overanalyzed it I probably wouldn’t have [left]. But here I am, 26, and I had this feeling that this would turn into something.”
Turn into something it did.
Stevens worked her way up the professional ranks quickly, going on to win the 2010 and 2011 national time trial championship. So far in 2012, her biggest wins have been at La Flèche Wallonne Femmes, on the UCI World Cup, and the inaugural women’s Exergy Tour, during which her Specialized-lululemon team swept the podium.
“Probably one of my favorite bike races was the last stage [of the Exergy Tour],” Stevens told VeloNews on Friday. “The best was my older sister running next to me, because she’s the one that got me into riding. That was one of the coolest days on the bike.”
Stevens was granted an automatic bid to the Olympic road race team after her Exergy Tour win, but she had hoped to make the two-rider time trial roster as well.
The USA Cycling selection committee granted her Specialized-lululemon teammate and 2008 world time trial champion Amber Neben, second overall at the Exergy Tour, a spot in the TT. Earning the other place was Exergy Twenty12’s Kristin Armstrong, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist and 2009 time trial world champion, who dropped out of the Exergy Tour with a broken collarbone.
“For me to get the TT spot would be difficult,” Stevens said. “It inspires me to become a better time trialist. Both Amber and Kristin were former world champions — four years ago, I was at the desk.”
Armstrong and Neben will join Stevens on the road team, as will Shelley Olds, the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup winner.
And though Stevens won’t compete during the time trial on August 1, the possibility of earning Olympic gold on July 29 during the road race is a very real one.
“It’s been an incredible season thus far, I’ve been working really hard,” Stevens said. “My goal is to go out there and have the best race possible that day. It’ll be a new experience, so I’ll prepare the best I can.”
And while she’ll be gunning for gold, Stevens said she is proud to have even made it this far in just four years.
“I thought I would love to go to the Olympics, but I thought it would be as a spectator,” Stevens said. “Four years later, it’s pretty incredible to be in a position to go to the Olympics [as an athlete].”
One thing’s for sure: Stevens has no regrets about her leap of faith from Wall Street.
“Everybody has that skill that they’re good at, but you have to say yes to it,” Stevens said. “My theory is, I’ve failed at a lot of different areas in life, but you have to risk failure to have an amazing experience.”