CANNON FALLS, MN (VN) — Tibco’s Shelley Olds sprinted to within 10 seconds of the race lead Wednesday night at the Nature Valley Grand Prix St. Paul Downtown Criterium. Olds was caught behind Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) who crashed in the final corner of the race. Olds managed to recover and sprint for third, and while she was rewarded with the most aggressive rider’s jersey for her efforts, she did not collect the valued 12-second time bonus for the winner.
Olds found herself in a similar position on Thursday night at the Cannon Falls Road Race, where she tried to close a gap to race winner Jade Wilcoxson (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) in the final 100m. Olds was disappointed to miss the win, but moved into third on the general classification.
A former winner of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, Olds knows the race well. “I missed it last year, and it’s one of my favorite races. This race is truly a stage race and it’s not won in one day. We have a whole week ahead of us of with various kinds of races that are each challenging in their own way,” said Olds who excels on short steep climbs and sprint finishes. “It ends, of course, in Stillwater, and that can change everything on the last day.”
Olds’ season has gotten off to a rough start due to a bout of pneumonia, and dental work related to a crash she suffered when competing on the World Cup track circuit several years ago. Factor in her transcontinental travel schedule, and it’s been a slightly slower build up than she is used to.
With these factors in mind, Olds wasn’t expecting much when she lined up for the U.S. national road race championship in Chattanooga two weeks ago. Olds treated the race more as a scouting mission for future attempts at the title. “It wasn’t my goal this year, but now that I’ve seen the course I know what it is, and I know how to prepare for it,” said Olds about the Chattanooga course. “I know that I’m capable of being there at the end. It was a little disappointing that I didn’t have the preparation going into it. I really liked the course, I love the circuits on the end, the climb is great to mix it up, and Chattanooga is a really cool city.”
The last two years Olds has made her home base in L’Estartit, located 40km outside of Girona, Spain. Olds’ beachside apartment, and the Mediterranean climate, affords her the luxury of year-round riding and a diversity of training routes. In addition, Olds can easily travel to races around Europe, honing her skills and collecting valued UCI points needed to qualify for future Olympic and world championship teams.
Olds credits the move to Spain for her success in 2012, which saw her narrowly miss a medal at the 2012 Olympic games. “When you don’t put yourself in that environment, with the constant stimulus of racing against the best girls in the world, racing on the hardest courses, racing with two hundred riders, bad weather, and hilly, flat and narrow roads, you name it — if you don’t go and race in that, and learn how to be successful, then you never will be.”
Olds’ current focus is on helping her TIBCO squad take back the NRC team title. After the Nature Valley Grand Prix, they will be heading to Italy for the Giro Rosa, at the end of June. Olds will shoot for wins while the team rides in support of its GC contender, Claudia Hausler. Joining Hausler and Olds at the Giro Rosa will be Chantal Blaak, Jasmin Glaesser, Joanne Kiesanowski, and Lauren Stephens.
While Olds fulfilled one her lifelong dreams when she appeared in the 2012 London Olympics, her narrow miss increased her appetite for a medal. She is now looking at races like the 2013 world road championships, in Tuscany, as a model for what might appear in the Rio 2016 games.
“Last year was primarily focused on the London course, and now I have reason to build my training around climbing, which is what I am doing for the next four years,” said Olds as she laid out her future plans. “I’m naturally a sprinter, but I’m focused on it now, and I believe you can do anything you put your mind to. “