Tour de Force: meet racing pros Lauren and Mat Stephens
Lauren Stephens’ bike tire was flat and she didn’t know how to change it. She took the vehicle to a bike shop, where Mat Stephens pawned the repair on another employee so he could chat with the cute new customer.
âI had no idea he was flirting with me, but that’s what was happening,â Lauren says.
The two started going on group walks and have been forming buddies – and life partners – ever since. After 10 years of marriage, their commitment to cycling is stronger than ever.
Mat ran cross country and swam in high school. He added cycling to his training program to participate in triathlons. When he went to college, Texas A&M didn’t have a triathlon team, but there was a cycling club. He started riding in an amateur team that competed in races across the country.
In 2004, he participated in a multi-event competition at the Superdrome de Frisco. His teammate had never been on the site and had crashed during warm-ups the day before the two-man track race. With 30 laps to go, the duo – which occupies third place – launched into the attack. They doubled the competition and won the race ahead of Mat’s family and friends.
“We are racing pros and Olympians and we seem like fools, but it was cool to be an underdog and achieve something that we thought was possible but really hard,” he says. .
After college, Mat found a job in bicycle assembly at Bicycles Plus. The work has allowed him to stay connected to the industry while traveling on weekends for various road, gravel and mountain bike races. When he met Lauren, he introduced her to the world of bike racing and became her trainer.
âMat pushed me to do a triathlon and I realized that cycling was the one I really liked,â she says. âSometimes it’s hard to take criticism from him, but I wouldn’t have it any other way either because I know how much he loves me. It makes me stronger and makes our relationship so strong.
Lauren started running on weekends while teaching math full time at Bryan Adams High School. She cycled to work almost every day from their home in Old Lake Highlands, and Mat made a wooden crate attached to the bike to hold his books.
âThe students who were there at the time remember me as the lady on the bike,â Lauren says. âSurprisingly, they thought it was cool.â
But Lauren quickly made a name for herself in cycle racing circles, and pro teams took notice. In 2013, she quit her teaching job and signed a contract to run full time for Team TIBCO Silicon Valley Bank. The competition circuit includes weeks of racing in Europe, where she was riding when the pandemic hit.
Mat had flown to Milan to train with her for a race which was later called off. By then, Milan had stopped flights to the United States, so he returned home on the last plane from Rome before the United States barred entry from Italy. Lauren’s season was canceled and she met him in Oklahoma for what would be her last race of the year.
For a while, the couple didn’t even cycle around White Rock Lake. They pursued new hobbies and Lauren sold sourdough bread on the corner of Lakeshore and Peavy. One weekend, the proceeds went to Project Echelon, a nonprofit organization that educates and equips veterans through physical activity.
They embarked on the virtual run to stay in shape when in-person events picked up. Even as a newcomer to online cycling, Lauren won two stages of the Virtual tour of France, and his team finished first overall. She hopes to continue showing what she can do before the Tokyo Olympics. USA Cycling Named her to the long list of 10 contenders, with the top four being selected to the final squad in early June.
As an elite cyclist, Lauren can take on many men. In February, the couple competed in a 12-hour mountain bike relay race. Instead of entering the mixed category, they opted for tougher competition in the men’s division. Lauren was quick to stay ahead of the pack and thanks Mat for letting her skip some laps of the night. In the end, the extra effort was worth it to share a kiss at the top of the podium, she says.
âRiding together is something we’ve been doing almost from day one we met,â Lauren says. “When I think I have achieved the best in myself, he pushes me to be better.”
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