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Posted: Monday May 28, 2012 5:13PM ; Updated: Monday May 28, 2012 5:13PM

Evelyn Stevens wins Exergy, stakes claim to Olympic berth

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) Evelyn Stevens won the Exergy Tour following a final-stage breakaway, firmly cementing her claim to a berth on the U.S. Olympic team for the London Games.

Stevens, of Boulder, Colo., took second place in a sprint with Germany's Claudia Haeusler after the 46.7-mile stage. But the 29-year-old Stevens finished far enough ahead of the pack to beat American Amber Neben for the overall title.

After Neben, Canada's Clara Hughes finished in third place after five days of racing.

Stevens, a former Wall Street associate, bought her first racing bike in 2008 and then became a cycling phenomenon.

"It's an honor to race here and it's an honor to represent the United States, hopefully," Stevens said. "I'm a little bit later to the sport of cycling, so hopefully people can hear my story and realize it's never too late or never too early."

The race had been anticipated as a showdown between three U.S. women: Stevens, the 2011 U.S. time trial champ; Neben, the 2008 world champion; and 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, from Boise. But Armstrong crashed on the first day, suffering a broken collarbone.

Stevens, 29, turned pro in 2009 after consulting with 1984 Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter.

"She called me and asked me, `Should I quit my day job," remembers Carpenter, who works as an analyst for the Exergy Tour.

"I asked her, `Well, how much money are you making at your job now?"' Carpenter said. "But it turns out it was a good decision."

As a post-race press conference, Stevens said she had no regrets about leaving the investment fund where she worked until 2009, Gleacher Mezzanine.

"This is a lot better than investment banking," she said.

Stevens, Neben and Hughes all ride for the same team, Specialized-lululemon.

Armstrong was relegated to watching her teammates on Exergy 2012, instead of racing for the title.

After undergoing surgery Friday, Armstrong said she'd already pedaled her bicycle around her Boise neighborhood and was planning to train in a wind tunnel in San Diego later this week.

"I was going to take a break after the Exergy Tour, anyway," Armstrong said, before Monday's final stage.

Armstrong believes her own Olympic time trial hopes are intact, after beating Stevens in three races earlier this year.

"As far as selection criteria goes, I don't have any worries in my mind," Armstrong said.

USA Cycling makes its selection on June 15. The United States will likely field a team of four riders, two of whom will ride the London time trial.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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