Harry How/Getty ImagesEvelyn Stevens is proving how much women riders can handle, and her team is innovating financially.
Evelyn Stevens can’t enter a three-week-long bike race like the celebrated Tour de France, which finishes up in Paris on Sunday. That choice has been made for her by cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, which limits women’s multiday or stage races to less than half that duration.
This is not something that sits well with many top women around the world, including Stevens, who gave up an investment banking career on Wall Street seven years ago to become a professional cyclist. Her own stock gained value quickly. Stevens has won two national time trial titles, a world silver medal in the time trial, several stage races and the Fleche-Wallonne one-day classic.
She didn’t know how her body and mind would react to a longer event, but she heard it might help her endurance in the long run -- that’s what the guys say -- and she chafed at the idea that she couldn’t test her limits.
So Stevens organized her own Grand Tour, the longest, hardest stretch she could string together on the calendar: Back-to-back races in Europe that totaled 17 straight days and 959 miles of racing.
She wobbled in the first one, by her own high standards. She won the second. She feels different, more impervious to mental and physical exhaustion. And she thinks she made a statement more emphatic than any written manifesto.
"The point of it is, the female body, we can race Grand Tour lengths," Stevens said from her home base in the Bay Area. "We’re not going to get weaker throughout it.
AP Photo/Charles KrupaMeb Keflezighi is following his Boston Marathon win with a new job off the roads.
Editor’s Note: Competitor Group is a content provider for ESPN’s Endurance section
Running promotion company Competitor Group Inc. is set to name 2014 Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi its first vice president of running.
The role is a part-time commitment that will allow training for elite races to remain the top priority for Keflezighi, who Competitor CEO David Abeles calls "one of our sport's great ambassadors".
In April, the 39-year-old San Diego resident became the first American man since 1983 to win the Boston Marathon. Keflezighi led for much of the race as the city celebrated its healing from the terrorist bombings near the finish line that marred the 2013 race.
Competitor Group owns and operates the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series, a 28-race roster that along with the group's TriRock Triathlons and Women's Running Series draws more than 700,000 athletes annually. Most participants are recreational runners, but appearance fees are paid to encourage professionals to take part.
Keflezighi turned down an offer to join CGI in 2000 in order to focus on his training, and in his new role will make event appearances on behalf of the company, run in some CGI events and help create training content for runners.
"My dream has been realized," Keflezighi told USA TODAY Sports. "Boston was the capping. Now I want to inspire others to get the best out of themselves, inspire others just getting started. It's a huge honor."
Keflezighi is looking toward the New York City Marathon -- where in 2009 he became the first American winner in 27 years -- this fall, and has made qualifying for the 2014 Olympics in Rio de Janiero one of his main goals moving forward.
“Running is still a priority, but you can do much with social media, with interviews, with appearances,” Keflezighi told Sports Business Journal.
The next Rock 'n' Roll Marathon is scheduled for Aug. 4 in Dublin, Ireland, with the series returning to the United States on Aug. 31 in Virginia Beach.
Dan Mullan/Getty ImagesOffseason conditioning in rugby is no day at the beach.
Rugby is a tough sport; players are willing to get beaten to a pulp week in week out playing for their clubs. During my professional career, I have seen players in pieces after having played a game.
But there is one thing that unites all players, the general hatred for preseason training. This season is the 17th time I have dragged my sorry carcass through weeks of some of the most disgusting fitness sessions strength and conditioning experts can come up with. Everyone knows that it is tough and rugby fans all hear about how hard it can be during the summer months building up to the new season, but some of the physical effects range from horrific to flat out weird. But, by the end of it, you actually start to feel pretty good about yourself and are desperate for the matches to start.
Much of what is thrown at you during the couple of months of preseason is, of course, to improve player fitness and strength levels, but I have learned over the years that there is also an element of the coaches and trainers putting players in situations which mentally stretch them -- will they give up as soon as it gets tough or will they dig in for their teammates?
Tim O'Dowd/Dartmouth AthleticsAbbey D'Agostino is taking her NCAA championship experience to the professional ranks.
Seven-time NCAA track champion Abbey D’Agostino signed a professional contract with New Balance on June 18. She will continue her professional career with coach Mark Coogan, who oversaw her success at Dartmouth.
D'Agostino's contract supports her through the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, where she will look to make her first Olympic team. She spoke with ESPN.com recently to discuss her transition from NCAA star to the professional ranks.
Christopher Chavez: How easy of a decision was it for you to feel comfortable with New Balance
D’Agostino: It was pretty seamless. I knew I was looking for a company that wasn’t just there to give me free gear. It was more of a holistic commitment to the company’s values. That jumped out to me instantly with New Balance. They support the individual and not just the runner. It’s a close-knit community and they really embrace the spirit of running. I’m so thrilled to have found what I was looking for.
Chavez: The original plan was to run the 5K at the Monaco Diamond League. Why have you decided to take the summer off?
D’Agostino: In the past month, I haven’t really been in one place for an extended period of time. I think that’s something I’m going to have to adjust to, but there was definitely a bunch of emotional input in those few weeks. Once that starts to affect you mentally, it starts to become physical. I was started to feel that.
I’m privileged to have a coach and support from New Balance that will support the decisions that are best for me. This is a year where I can afford to take a nice long break and that’s what I decided.
More on D'Agostino
ESPN.com's Doug Williams spoke to Abbey D'Agostino as she prepared last spring for her final championship meets, chronicling her rise from nondescript high schooler to multiple titles. Story »
Chavez: What’s the plan for the fall?
D’Agostino: If I do any road race this fall, it would be to get my feet wet as a professional. My focus is going to be the U.S. Cross-Country championships in February.
Chavez: What’s the best thing about your chemistry with coach Mark Coogan?
D’Agostino: It’s more than just a coach-athlete relationship and I think it’s also become a friendship. There’s respect there as coach vs. athlete as well, but I’ve come to trust Mark because of his experience racing at this level. He’s also spent a lot of time fine-tuning the mental aspects for him as a runner. That’s what he’s translated to his athletes. That was a very critical element to my success at Dartmouth. I’m really looking forward to what our relationship has in store just building off what we’ve already established.
Chavez: When you first started off with running was it mainly for fun. You weren’t a running junkie that constantly looked up the rest of the competition before meets. When did you flip the switch into really thinking this could be a full-time profession?
D’Agostino: Towards the end of my junior year I started to become more comfortable racing at this caliber. Before it was like ‘Get in there with them and hang on’. I did a lot more leading and racing more consistently against tougher competition. It just felt more comfortable and I started to trust myself however the race played out.
To me, running goes best when I’m very well balanced with other areas of my life and I need to translate that to my professional career. I’m excited to put more energy into running now and also apply myself to things that I probably wouldn’t be able to do if I had a nine to five job. At Dartmouth, I was a student and an athlete and worked to keep those priorities balanced.
Chavez: Outside of running, what are some of your big hobbies and passions?
D’Agostino: I’m a psychology major and there’s much that I can do in terms of internships. I’m more interested in counseling. I really enjoy working with kids. I’ve spent a couple summers as a camp counselor. I did Girls on the Run at Dartmouth, so I’d love to do some volunteer coaching. I was involved with a couple Christian organizations at Dartmouth, so I’m looking forward to finding a new church in Boston and making new friends there.
Chavez: What is a little known fact about Abbey D’Agostino that the track world doesn’t know?
D’Agostino: Playing the violin in middle school was a traumatic experience for me. I always say that when people ask me if I’m musical at all. That turned me off from playing any instrument. I would cry every lesson, because I was so sensitive. I hated practicing. None of that would follow me to high school.
Chavez: You just joined Twitter (@abbey_dags). Why did it take so long?
D’Agostino: Oh my gosh! I had people nagging me to get that for years. It’s funny because I’m pretty much a 60-year-old woman with technology. It’s not my first interest. Even when I’m handling an iPhone, my mom will ask me if I have the flashlight app and I’ll say ‘I don’t even know what that is’.
Now my perspective has definitely changed, people think I had to get one. It was very much a choice. It’s a way to stay connected and I thought it would distract me. Now I do have the time to keep up with pop culture and what’s trending. It’s fun to see high school students and everyone being really enthusiastic about running.
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesDevon Allen adds a national title in the 110-meter hurdles to his previous NCAA championship.
The USATF Outdoor Championships concluded Sunday with a handful of noteworthy performances. Here's the best of the best.
Performer of the day: Devon Allen of the University of Oregon became the first man to double as the NCAA Champion and U.S. champion in the 110-meter hurdles since Renaldo Nehemiah in 1979. Allen won with a time of 13.155, edging out defending champion Ryan Wilson by .005 seconds.
Allen’s 13.16 at the NCAA Championship in Eugene on June 16 was the second fastest time by a collegiate athlete and scored points that led to a team title for the Ducks. Allen is also a wide receiver on the Oregon football team.
Comeback watch: Wallace Spearmon may have finished in second place in the 200-meter dash, but his 20.19 matched his season’s best from the 2014 adidas Grand Prix. In his post-race interview, Spearmon said he will stick around through the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, which would be his third olympic team. The 29-year-old is currently unsponsored.
Donn Cabral had a dream 2012 season, capturing the NCAA steeplechase title to cap off an undefeated season over the water barriers, and he led the 3,000-meter steeplechase final for a few laps at the 2012 Olympics.
Cabral struggled in 2013, though, and finishing sixth at the U.S. Championships and being diagnosed with Lyme disease. He showed signs over the weekened of being back at full health with a late surge to challenge American record holder Evan Jager and Dan Huling in the last 400-meters of Sunday’s steeplechase final. Cabral would finish third in 8:20.04. Jager won in 8:18.83.
Heartbreak of the meet: Nike’s Bershawn Jackson went down after the first hurdle of the men’s 400-meter hurdle race with a pulled groin. Jackson finished fourth at the 2012 Olympic Trials, missing a place on the team by just one spot.
After qualifying for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Jackson’s bad luck caught up to him in the semifinals and he suffered a hamstring injury. Jackson has said his goal is to return to the form that had him ranked in the top five in the world for most of his career.
Johnny Dutch won the 400 hurdles in 48.93 to capture his first national title after six previous appearances in the finals. Last year, Dutch missed a place on the national team for the IAAF World Championships by one spot.
Wire-to-wire wins: Duane Solomon took the men’s 800-meter title, running from the front at the start of the race. Solomon set a new stadium record with the 1:44.30 victory, thanks in part to an outstanding 1:15.8 split at 600 meters. Casimir Loxsom of the Brooks Beasts Track Club fought for second place and finished in 1:45.97 over Erik Sowinski.
New Balance’s Jenny Simpson won the women’s 1,500-meter run in 4:04.96, beating out teenage sensation Mary Cain. Simpson led from the start and took the field through the first 400 meters in 68.76 seconds.
Morgan Uceny fell 800 meters into the race, which brought back memories of her fall in the 1,500-meter final at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. She finished last in 4:24.01.
National depth: The United States has six of the top 20 fastest women in the world for the 800-meter run in 2014. Ajee Wilson captured the U.S. national title with her season-best 1:58.70. NCAA champion Laura Roesler broke the two-minute barrier for the first time in her career as she finished second in 1:59.04. Brenda Martinez, the 2013 world bronze medalist, finished fifth in 2:00.18.