DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Shelly Olds aims to represent the U.S. in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this August, but given her experience four years ago, she is not risking her entire 2016 for the race.
Olds participated in the 2012 Olympics in London, however her preparation was inconsistent and she suffered a crash just before the race. During the Olympic race, she made the winning group of four with 50 kilometers left to race, only to puncture with 20km to go. She finished seventh.
“I learned that you can’t really pin your season on one race,” Olds told VeloNews. “My goal [this year] is not only the Olympics. I worked really hard over the winter, I’ve done everything I can to prepare, just like in 2012 before London, I just do every that’s I can that’s in my control to be the best I can be. What happens, happens.”
The U.S. will take four cyclists to the women’s road race in Rio. USA Cycling will narrow down the short list of 10 down over the next few months. A win in the WorldTour guarantees a cyclist a place to race for the gold medal.
“It’s about being consistent, that’s my goal, to be consistent and enjoy it along the way because if you put too much pressure on yourself in an Olympic year, you lose the fun in it,” Olds said. “My idea is just to focus on one race at a time, do the best I can and see what happens.”
Olds, 35, is already firing on all cylinders. She placed second overall in the Tour Down Under in Australia. In Qatar, she wants to continue in the same vein, racing for the win and helping her new team progress. Last year, she split with team Bigla and joined Ale-Cipollini mid-way in the season.
Olds declined to comment on the split from Bigla, other than to say the situation was “not a good fit.”
“My new team is spectacular, amazing,” Olds said. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole career with great sponsors, great management, great staff, great riders. It’s really well supported and with Cannondale now in the women’s peloton.”
Olds said the overall level of women’s racing has improved during her career, which is a bright spot for the sport. “Every race is a big race now that we have so many WorldTour events,” she said.
Olds faces four upcoming WorldTour events that will be important both individually and for the Rio selection: Strade Bianche, Ronde van Drenthe, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, and Gent-Wevelgem. First, Olds is giving her attention to the wind-swept roads in Qatar.
“The Tour of Qatar is big on its own,” Olds said. “It’s both, it’s a high-level race and you have the best teams here, and of course, everyone wants to start her season on a good foot.”
In stage one, partly on the 2016 world championship circuit, she placed fifth behind stage winner Kirsten Wild (Hitec).