How Two Olympic Hopefuls are Turning the Pandemic into Opportunity

Kendall Ryan and Lauren Stephens of Team TIBCO-SVB Pro Cycling Team
Kendall Ryan (L) and Lauren Stephens of Team TIBCO-SVB Women's Pro Cycling Team
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The COVID-19 pandemic has altered daily life for people worldwide, causing us all to rethink our routines, strategies, and goals. This includes the athletes of Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank, the women’s professional cycling team TIBCO has proudly sponsored for the past 15 years. 

Races in which the team competes began to be canceled shortly after the 2020 season started, due to the COVID-19 outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns. However, that didn’t prevent the athletes from pushing through with their training schedules and continuing to pursue their goals. 

This is especially true for riders Kendall Ryan and Lauren Stephens, two of the team’s top cyclists who are also training to compete for a spot on Team USA at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The postponement of the 2020 Olympics due to the pandemic no doubt affected athletes and their training goals all over the world, but Ryan and Stephens are choosing to view the disruption as an opportunity rather than a setback. 

Kendall Ryan (Photo by Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us)

Ryan felt as if reaching her goal of riding for Team USA in the Olympics was so close she could almost feel it. But when the pandemic hit and the Olympics were postponed, she initially had a difficult time coping with the news. “I was in shock and needed time to process,” Ryan explained. “I had spent the last few years training day in and day out with the goal of the Olympics in mind, and I went from being on the cusp of fulfilling that dream to everything coming to a screeching halt.”

While she was disappointed, Ryan didn’t allow her years of hard work to fall by the wayside. Instead, she worked with her sports psychologist, who helped her refocus her motivation and keep her eye on the prize. “I want to be an Olympian and proudly represent my country, and I want to win a gold medal. Sure, I have to overcome the challenge of repeating the last year of preparation, but now I know what it takes and I can do it even better,” Ryan said.

"I want to be an Olympian and proudly represent my country. Sure, I have to repeat the last year of preparation, but now I know what it takes and I can do it even better,” Ryan said. Click To Tweet

When the Olympics were pushed, Stephens viewed the news as an opportunity. Due to an injury in 2018, she felt she hadn’t been riding to her full potential, which hurt her chances at earning her place on the Olympic team. “I see the postponement as a second chance. Toward the end of the 2019 season the pain was lessening and my performance began to improve. Unfortunately, it may have been too late to prove I deserved a spot on the team in 2020. Now I feel as if I have a second chance to prove myself,” said Stephens. 

While pushing the Olympic games back a year presented its own set of challenges for the athletes’ training schedules, Ryan and Stephens also have to be far more flexible with their methods. Normally, the women would be in gyms, riding on velodromes, and using Team TIBCO-SVB races as a large portion of their training. For now, they have to settle for solo workouts on the roads near home or inside via virtual training. 

Lauren Stephens (left) training with Team TIBCO-SVB pre-COVID 19 (Photo by Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us)

Going digital with their training has had some perks, however. “As long as you have a decent internet connection and a nice turbo trainer, virtual training can be a really great tool. You can do it at any time of day, you don’t have to worry about cars or traffic lights, and the video game aspect of it is kind of addicting,” said Ryan. Another positive to virtual training is that the cyclists are still able to ride together as a team. “Riding virtually is a fun way to stay competitive and engage with other riders while group riders and races have been put on hold. I have been able to find a rhythm using races and group virtual rides to get in a good mix of intensity and endurance,” Stephens explained. 

“Riding virtually is a fun way to stay competitive and engage with other riders. I have been able to find a rhythm using group virtual rides to get in a good mix of intensity and endurance,” Stephens explained.  Click To Tweet

Virtual cycling has been a great alternative for the entire team to stay in touch and continue training by competing in virtual races. The team just wrapped up the inaugural Virtual Tour de France, where Stephens won the second stage as well as the final stage, and the team defended the yellow jersey, won the mountain jersey, the points jersey, and the overall classification, and won the overall title. 

In-person racing resumed for the teams this past weekend, and both cyclists are looking forward to continuing to prove themselves to the Olympic selection committee through their performance and teamwork. Ryan and Stephens were named to the long team in June 2020, but it will be another year before the final team is announced. While the two athletes undoubtedly had their cycling careers thrown for a loop at the onset of the pandemic, they both have spent years building solid foundations that allow them to adapt their training methods and prove they have what it takes to succeed.