Rebecca Stephens is the Weekly Rider! I caught up with Bec out on the roads of Victoria's Western District where she was preparing for the National Road Champs and the start of the VRS is February.
She's managing to balance a demanding job and life with riding and racing. She's got some great stories about riding in terrible conditions and pushing through despite the pain.
Images - Dion Jelbart and Kirsty Baxter
NAME - Rebecca Stephens
LIVES - Fitzroy North, Melbourne
The new Canyon/SRAM team issue Canyon. With matching kit naturally!
MY FAVOURITE LOCAL RIDE IS...
We’re spoilt for choice in Melbourne, everyone says that but it’s true. So, for pure fun, I’d have to say my local Tuesday morning 99 Bikes shop ride. It is such a diverse, friendly, fun group of cyclists.
Everyone is welcome, no one is too slow or too fast. We ride the Kew boulevard and surrounding roads and target the boulevard southbound Strava segment to see how many people can achieve the coveted sub-10 minute status every week. Yes, Strava wars are juvenile as hell but they’re also fun!
MY CURRENT CYCLING GOAL IS...
To make it onto the podium in at least one race in the 2016 Victorian Road Series which starts with the Tour of East Gippsland in late February.
WHEN I AM ON THE BIKE I...
try not to stare at my stem. I’ve recently acquired a power meter and the urge to stare at power numbers on my Garmin is almost overwhelming.
HOW MY LOVE FOR BIKES CAME ABOUT
I started riding to work when I finished uni and got my first full time job. I realised that catching public transport was filling me with rage for an hour at the start and end of every day and thought there had to be a better way so I got a bike.
For a few years I rode only to commute until one day at a BBQ my brother in law told a story of how he’d done this really awesome ride down at Lorne and it was really long, so tough, he’d vomited on the side of the road but then kept going and finished anyway. It sounded epic, way beyond my capabilities but for some reason a voice in my head said ‘you could do that’.
Turns out he’d been talking about the inaugural edition of the Amy Gillet Gran Fondo so when the entries opened for the next one, I signed up and convinced my partner to join me. Together we spent 4 months carefully preparing for the 110 kilometre course and by the time we’d completed the Fondo successfully I was totally hooked.
From there it was a short step to harder recreational rides like the 3 Peaks Challenge and then we both got into road racing. I just don’t know what I did before I rode. There is nothing I’d rather do with my time than be on a bike.
SHARE A CYCLING MEMORY
It’s funny how the most memorable cycling experiences often aren’t perfect rides where the weather was great, you didn’t get lost, no one had a mechanical, everyone set PBs on the local benchmark climb, then rode home in the warm sunshine.
The ones that stick in the mind are the ones that turn to shit. This memory is one of those and it happened at last year’s Melbourne to Ballarat handicap race. It was a freezing day in July, I got dropped halfway into the race and rode the remaining 40 odd kilometres on my own on the side of the Western Freeway.
A brief shower of rain just before the finish ensured I was frozen through as I arrived at the car park where most riders were jumping into warm cars to get a lift back to Melbourne. My partner had also raced that day and we’d agreed to ride back to Melbourne after the race for fun.
The fun started to fade as we battled cross headwinds on the quiet country roads back towards our car at the start point, it dimmed even further when we started running out of water and food but didn’t encounter a single service station or milk bar on the entire route.
It extinguished completely when I realised that by taking the back roads the whole round trip was going to turn into a 160 kilometre journey.
By the time we reached the start point in Melbourne we’d been riding for far longer than we’d anticipated and it was late in the afternoon. All that lay between us and our car was a short stretch of muddy grass next to freeway.
Frozen, starving, and almost delirious with joy that the end was near we both plunged in and within the final 500 meters of an otherwise pretty dry 160 kilometre ride we covered our tyres and frames in a thick coating of weird-smelling, sticky, yellow clay. After wiping ineffectually at the clay for a while we rolled to the car and I turned to the task of removing the Velotoze shoe covers I’d decided to put on before the race.
Once I got them off I realised that wearing Velotoze for 6+ hours is a bad idea. Some serious bacteria reproduction had been quietly taking place within their latex confines and my beloved cycling shoes now smelled like a cat had pissed in them. Days like these will either galvanise or destroy your love of cycling.
I LOVE TO RIDE BECAUSE...
It makes me feel alive and full of joy. It allows me to hope that there will be more excitement in my life beyond going to work, paying my bills, and having nice holidays. It allows me to secretly hope that one day I’ll win some races and maybe even get to race my bike overseas. It’s a pipe dream but, hey, if you don’t dream how will you ever have a dream come true?