Stephens is almost at the end of a very busy period of travel after competing in the mountain bike marathon worlds at the beginning of September, followed swiftly by the road worlds. She took a brief break in the U.S. after that but is now back in Europe for the inaugural UCI Gravel World Championships.
The gravel worlds may be her final race of the season, but she’s still got some big plans with a potential appearance at Big Sugar Gravel at the end of October before another trip to Europe to take part in the UCI’s directeur sportifs’ course.
“I am planning to race next year, I have a contract to race with the team, but I’m taking the directors’ course, in Switzerland,” Stephens told VeloNews. It’s looking more towards 2024 and just preparing for that. I just was like I might as well take the course. There’s never a good time to take the course. It’s a whole week in Switzerland, and it’s quite expensive.
“I just want to be prepared for 2024. You know, I don’t know what I want to do yet. Just right now, I’m still racing. But I know eventually. I want to do something else. Yeah. Just want to have that opportunity available. I am just keeping the options open, and if you already have the license, I think it would be a very smooth transition.”
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Stephens is paying her own way onto the DS course, but her EF Education-TIBCO-SVB is supporting her in the endeavor and helped to get her into the course.
“Financially, the team is not supporting it, but the idea of me taking the course. They wrote a very nice letter to help me get into the course. They’re fully supporting, like the idea of me doing it,” she said.
Despite laying the foundations for a post-retirement career, Stephens says that she’s not thinking too hard about life after racing. She still has at least another season to go before she has to really consider what comes next.
When the time does come for the 35-year-old to hang up her racing wheels, don’t mention the “R” word. Quitting racing will not be the end, it’s the beginning of the next adventure.
“I don’t really like that word,” Stephens’ told VeloNews when asked if she was considering retirement. “In this day and age, I think there’s so much entrepreneurship and everyone’s just doing a little bit here a little bit there that for me that word it’s so final. Like my parents, they’re retired. They’re the ones who’ve got the money figured out. They got they can just enjoy life.”
Helping the next generation
Like many in women’s cycling, Stephens had another life before she started racing full-time. Whenever it does arrive, the end of her competitive racing career is an opportunity to bring her former life into her current one.
“For three years I taught math, so I have a degree in math but also a minor in secondary education. I’ve always really enjoyed just like helping people be their best,” Stephens said. “Everyone’s always asked me if I want to go back to the classroom and I’m not really interested in having a job that’s eight to five and just very rigid like school teaching would be, but there are lots of aspects of school teaching that I miss. I feel like some of those can be like, fulfilled through being a director.”
For Stephens, potentially becoming a director in 2024 or beyond is a chance for her to guide future generations and help them to find the best in themselves. As any educator will know, teaching is not just about the subject matter, and she wants to help others figure out what makes them tick.
“I guess the main reason I became a teacher is I wanted to be a coach. And I mean, that’s basically what a director is. They’re like the sideline coach. You know, but if you look at any other sport, that would be the word that is that’s used,” she said.
“It’s understanding the person figuring out how to get the best out of each person and I just really enjoy that part. Even as a math teacher, it wasn’t about the numbers. It was figuring out the students, figuring out how to motivate them, and learn about that person and just figure out how to get the best out of them.”