US runner Lauren Stephens looks for 2024 contract, hopes world top-20 will help

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Lauren Stephens is facing retirement at the end of this season, but the American runner would like to compete for one more year.

To do that, Stephens will need to secure a new contract. The 36-year-old is currently under contract with the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB team, where she has competed for almost her entire professional career, but that deal is set to expire this season with the team’s future now uncertain.

The existing EF women’s team is run and owned by Canadian ex-runner Linda Jackson. However, two major sponsors TIBCO and SVB have not renewed for 2024, while EF Education First is jumping in to support a new team, which has been created by EF Education-EasyPost men’s team owner Jonathan Vaughters. It is unclear whether the team Jackson manages will continue to compete next season.

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Stephens has so far been lost in the shuffle and is out of contract for next year and her road racing schedule ended with the world championships in Glasgow last weekend. With the Olympics on the horizon next year, Stephens is not ready to stop just yet and is hoping her top-20 performance in Scotland will help her secure a new deal.

“I have no other matches this year with my teams. And I really need to find a team for next year. So we hope this can help,” Stephens said. “It was definitely in the back of my mind to stop racing. But I’d really like to do one more year on the road, at least, and focus on Paris and try to give him a chance.”

With the transfer window opening in early August and squad places filling up fast, time is of the essence for Stephens if she is to land a ride at a top club for next season. There’s a chance she could finish her career by returning to racing in the US, but she’d like to continue competing on the European stage.

Although she won’t race on the road again this year, Stephens has some gravel racing on her calendar and plans to ride the Gravel Worlds in Nebraska at the end of August, the gravel nationals next month and the UCI Gravel World Championships in October.

“I haven’t set any deadlines, I know I have a lot of support in America, where if I can’t find something in Europe then someone will support me in America, but I really hope to find something where I spend more time in Europe,” he said.

Lauren Stephens at the world championships in Glasgow (Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Stephens was the top finisher for the U.S. women’s team in the road race in Glasgow last Sunday on a tough day for the Stars and Stripes. The team was originally going to support Chloé Dygert, who had won the time trial title a few days earlier, but had fallen ill and would not be able to compete.

Attention then turned to sprinter Megan Jastrab as the leader, but a mechanical problem would effectively end her day with the pack cars unable to catch up to stranded riders at high speed due to the narrow and twisty roads. Coryn Labecki was also removed early after crashing on the run at the Glasgow circuit.

That left the U.S. team without a leader to rally, but Stephens found herself in a good position when things started to fall apart. As the big favorites began to wear each other down, Stephens held the back of the main group and the tire only broke in the closing laps.

She eventually finished 18th after losing out in a sprint to a nine-rider pack that contained some of the other pre-race contenders, including Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Juliette Labous.

“We came in with full focus on Chloé and this has been a great run for her and I’m sure she’s just as disappointed as we are, but if she can recover, I bet she can have some really good races in the fall. Stephens said. “We went with the race plan for Megan Jastrup, but unfortunately, she had a front puncture on the first lap on the track. The cars are way behind on a track like this. That just makes it difficult.

“I just focused on trying to put myself in a good position and save energy and I knew it was going to be an attrition race. I just went out there and tried to get the best result I could once I was there. I’m definitely very excited about a top 20.”

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