By Julien Pretot
LONDON (Reuters) - Four years ago U.S. road racer Evelyn Stevens was working in investment banking in New York City but a few bike rides in Central Park convinced her to ditch the Wall Street career and turn professional.
"I moved to New York City when I graduated from business college. I was like that jogger in Central Park, a pretty intense one but I did not think I would be competing at professional level any time soon," the 29-year-old told Reuters in an interview two days before the Olympic road race.
"My sister introduced me to cycling after Thanksgiving 2007. I fell in love with it.
"I was just sitting in an office, wearing a suit, sipping coffee, getting on the subway. It was a culture I was not thriving in."
Stevens, known as Evie, now collects medals, not just the "deal toys" she was given when she would close a deal.
Stevens, who had landed a job at Lehman Brothers, welcomes the change in her life, having dropped investment banking shortly after the 2008 financial crisis.
"In New York City, there was this negativity, I could feel it," said Stevens, who used some of the money she made in Wall Street as a cushion in her new career.
"My quality of life has gone up. My lifestyle is much better."
"I had savings and I'm not somebody who goes and buys a 10,000-dollar purse. I was able to save up on my bonuses," she recalled.
"It gives you more possibilities, more freedom. I knew I would be fine, I had a cushion."
She actually made her biggest purchase buying her first bike.
"I had a pretty introductory-level bike. It cost me 1,000 dollars. At the time I though wow, I've just spent 1,000 dollars on a bike, the biggest one-ticket I ever made," said Stevens, who can thank the Century Road Club Association (CRCA) in New York which organizes races at 5 a.m. before Central Park opens, for her career change.
"I would have never come to racing if it wasn't for that CRCA clinic," she explained as she recalled her first morning race back in 2008 before winning the demanding Union Vale race in upstate New York.
She was then spotted by Bob Stapleton and invited into the now-defunct HTC Columbia team.
Being at the Olympics after winning the Fleche Wallonne classic and clinching two time-trial national titles would be enough for most. It is not for Stevens, though.
"I want to continue to push the boundaries," she said. (Editing by Alison Wildey)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp