Shelley Olds is a NorCal favorite who made her way in the cycling world at Hellyer Velodrome riding for pioneering women’s teams like Proman. After a big 2010 season Olds went to race in Europe full time. While garnering some top finishes in 2011 her performances were overshadowed by the return of stars like Kristin Armstrong and Clara Hughes, and the emergence of new American talents like Megan Gaurnier. Seen by many as a sprinter Olds has been known to produce big TT and mountain rides when needed. Olds popped back into the spotlight, and subsequently the race for the elusive womens Olympic spots, after she won the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup race held in China on May 13. Olds joins and elite group of NorCal riders like Katheryn Curi Mattis to win a World Cup event. Olds was kind of us to give us a quick interview as she shuttled from one continent to another…
Tell us how the Tour of Chongming Island, a World Cup event, went down.
The World Cup in China was wet, very flat, and fairly uneventful. The course was pretty straight forward, but the forecast was calling for some strong wind. The direction of the predicted wind meant that we would have a hard cross-wind for about 50 km in the middle of the race. So, we expected that the bigger teams would try to split the field, and they did exactly that. 40km into the race, after 8 km in a super-fast tunnel protected from the rain, we came out onto a huge 15km bridge with cross-wind and rain. The Greenedge and Specialized-Lululemon teams immediately started an echelon and my team AA Drink joined in. Unfortunately though, the wind was a little more in front and the entire peloton was able to stay protected from the wind despite our attempts to split the field.
So, we raced on towards the finish and it was clear that Greenedge, Specialized, and the other big teams would race for a field sprint. And why not? Greenedge had almost swept the competition in the Tour of Chongming Island 2 days before, executing a textbook leadout for every intermediate and final sprint of every race. Only Monia Baccaille of Team Cippolini was able to prevent a clean sweep of victories for the Greenedge sprinter, Melissa Hoskins, by winning Stage 2. I knew who the girls to watch were, and I knew I could count on the Greenedge team doing their thing once again. So, I waited patiently for the end of the race, anxious for the sprint and one last opportunity to win in China.
With 5 km to go, I had some teammates looking out for me, keeping me protected from the wind. With 2 km to go, they put me on the wheel of the best sprinters, behind the train of the best team, and let me fight it out myself in the last 1 km. With 500m to go, Charlotte Becker of Specialized made an early bid for the line and I was on her wheel directly. She took me to about 250m to go when I felt it was the moment to launch. I jumped and never looked back. But within 50m of the line, I could see Melissa Hoskins moving up on my left side. I threw my bike for the line and ended up pulling off the victory.
How does it feel to be back in contention for an Olympic spot?
It’s an incredible feeling to have won the World Cup. I have worked really hard this year and felt I was truly prepared to have a good season of consistent quality results that could earn me a spot on the Olympic squad. However, all of that slipped out of my control when I broke my wrist in the Binda World Cup in March. I spent the next 6 weeks at home trying to stay physically and mentally prepared for my return. I knew I would only have a few chances to qualify for the Olympics, having missed almost all of the spring season of races. But, my goal wasn’t to qualify for the Olympics in China. It was simply to get myself back into the rhythm of racing and enjoy cycling once again. China turned out to be the perfect place to do this.
At first glance the London course looks like it would really suit you – what are you thoughts?
Yes, I think the London course can be an excellent course me. It is a challenging course, but it is definitely possible that it could end in a sprint. The finish is one of the most immaculate and breath-taking finishes I have ever seen. The race finishes in Buckingham Palace. When I was there for the recon of the course, I had chills standing there thinking about what the Olympics would look and feel like in this place. It was amazing.
Rumor was last year was a rough one, how’d you cope?
Cycling is never easy. I have had a lot of ups and downs, and lately more downs than up. A good friend once told me that cycling, like life, is a journey of peaks and valleys. Most of the time you can’t run, you just have to walk through the valleys. It’s not if, but when, you will have hard times and challenges. But what I have learned is that I am always in control of my reaction to any situation. When things get tough, I try to relax and live in the moment, go back to the basics, and find a way to make it fun. At any point in time, you are just one victory away from forgetting a whole season of bad luck. Always believe in yourself and your dream.
What’s on tap for the rest of the year?
I am racing a couple of races in Holland next week, one of which covers some of the same roads and climbs for the World Championships this year. Then I am doing some UCI races in Spain, then the Giro d’ Italia. We’ll have to wait and see what races I do after that.
Damn! No Exergy Tour?
No Exergy Tour for me. I am racing here in Europe next week. Exergy was not on our team’s schedule.
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