Lauren Stephens: We have a “really strong” US women’s team at the UCI Road World Championships

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WOLLONGONG, Australia (VN) — It’s been a busy time racing and traveling for Lauren Stephens and the American will have to battle jet lag in the women’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships on Saturday.

Stephens is halfway to an epic world hat-trick after already competing in the mountain bike marathon world champions just a week ago. Now she is on the other side of the planet preparing to race the world road championships in Australia and before long she will be on the move again as she returns to Europe for the world championships gravel in early October.

If all that didn’t sound tiring enough, Stephens arrived in Australia a day late thanks to a missed connection. After the mountain bike world championships, she had to drive from Denmark to the Netherlands to catch a flight to Singapore.

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She should have been able to go straight to Sydney from there, but she had to head north to Tokyo and then back down to Australia. All in all, it took her almost two days to reach Wollongong and she only had two full days in Australia to acclimatize before the race, but she is taking it in her stride.

“I had a teammate and Joanne Kiesanowski and she told me to sleep. Keep sleeping, don’t worry. If you’re tired, sleep, if you’re not, don’t worry,” said Stephens. BikeNews. “So I feel like not stressing out when I wake up in the middle of the night. I know they say there’s no phone, but I just watch something or put on a podcast and I stay relaxed, and just know that I need to be awake and ready when it’s time to run.

Stephens’ late arrival meant she didn’t have much time to scout the course either. Team USA’s elite riders stay one block from the finish circuit in Wollongong, so she was able to get around that but she couldn’t see the climb up Mount Keira.

“The steep climb on the circuit was a bit longer than I thought. And I was like, ‘oh my God, I’m glad I have a few days to wake up the legs,’” she said.

Stephens was a late addition to the elite women’s team. She was down as a second reserve but broken collarbones for Coryn Labecki and Krista Doebel-Hickok meant she was added to the squad earlier this month.

Labecki was supposed to be one of the team’s potential medal contenders, but the team still have two very strong options in Veronica Ewers and Kristen Faulkner, who both had stellar seasons with their respective trade teams.

Despite such a late call-up and her hectic period of travel to Australia, Stephens hopes she can play an important role for the team this Saturday.

“We haven’t discussed tactics, but I mean, I mostly know that the ninth runner chosen, it’s pretty clear what my role will be, and I also think that like that, it’s my best way to helping the team is coming in as a support runner to get those runners into the final,” she said.

“We have a really solid team. I know a lot of people look up to Kristen, who is just a really powerful rider, and she can have a really good ride on this course. We also have Veronica Ewers, and this will be her first world championship. She’s just completed her first full year as a professional but has a lot of talent, you have Leah who also raced the TT, with Kristen, and always showed a lot. And then I think the rest of us are there to support these runners. If by any chance it comes down to a sprint, you know, I don’t expect that, but we have Skylar, who has a huge sprint on her.

This year, USA Cycling was able to send a full roster of seven riders for the elite women’s road race after the nation reached the top five in the UCI rankings. And this despite the fact that some of the best American drivers, such as Labecki, have endured difficult seasons.

After watching the ups and downs of American racing and runners over the past decade, Stephens thinks the country is in a good place with the talent coming to the top echelons of the sport. The recent creation of the Cynisca Cycling project by USA Cycling will hopefully see more American female riders rise through the ranks.

“I feel like we have that kind of strength across the board. We don’t have a single rider that stands out like we’ve had for the past few years, like when we had like Megan Guarnier and that band riders, but we just have a really strong group of American women now,” she said. “It’s been really exciting lately to see how many more women are starting to come out of the United States.

“I’ve been doing this full time for 10 years now and I think the number of American riders has reached a point where it’s stopped a bit. But seeing the work that USA Cycling is doing to bring riders to Europe, to give them the opportunity to see what they can do and also just to show the European teams what they are capable of I think we have made a lot of movement to create this opportunity for women.

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