Giving Thanks

I have to thank my family, friends, fans, and sponsors who took this journey with me and believed that I could achieve this great goal of mine.  When I left London, I was accompanied by my parents who came all the way to Europe to see me race and also to see my new home in Spain.  It was so nice to have my family close to me after such a major event in my life. 

 

When I arrived in Spain, my 7-year old niece had a welcome sign on the door to our house for me that read, “Welcome to the best worldwide cyclist, Shelley Olds.  Win or lose you are always our Shelley and we love you.”

 

This, and the hundreds of messages I received from people all over the World and from all the places I have been, inspire me to keep working hard.  I will not give up on my dreams and I will not stop believing in myself.  The key to success in sport is to truly love what you do, smile when you do it, and to have a lot of love in your life.  This experience showed me that what I do for a living makes the people I love both happy and proud.  And this is the inspiration I use to keep fighting.

 

The best thing that came of my Olympic experience was the gift I received from my new friends and training partners in Spain.  We have a group of about 30 guys and girls who meet and ride together all the time.  Every one of them has helped me in some way.  It is already a gift for me to have them to train with.

 

 

“Operation London” was the training program they all did with me for the Olympics. We raced together locally, sprinted against each other in training, raced up the climbs, pace-lined, practiced leading out sprints , and endlessly attacked one another.   Here’s a picture of the gift they had for me when I arrived home from London.

 

 

And on the back, it was full of signatures from all of them.

 

Each one of them allowed me to push beyond my limits every day in training.  They never let me quit.  This made the preparation for London fun and it is an experience that I will never forget. I give thanks for all of them, and all of my friends, fans, family, and sponsors as the journey continues with my pursuit of Olympic Gold in Rio 2016.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading ~Shelley

 

 

The Olympic Road Race

It has been 2 weeks now since I raced in the Cycling Road Race in the Olympic Games and it turned out to be everything I imagined it would be.  Being an athlete participating in the Games is truly the experience of a lifetime.

 

Looking back on my race, I can be very satisfied that I went to the Olympic Games 100 percent prepared to race and perform at the best of my ability.  I feel that I was ready for the challenge physically and mentally and that I was truly able to live in the moment during my time in London. Unfortunately, destiny played its hand and a stroke of bad luck robbed me of a very good chance at a medal.

 

The day started with sunshine, but just before the race, the rain started coming down.  I took the start line with the 65 other riders from over 20 different countries as we heard the thunder in the distance and the rain was starting to get worse.   The whistle blew and the tension was already extremely high.  For the first 50 km of the race, crowds lined the sides of the roads as we rode out of London city center.   The cheering was incredible.  I couldn’t hear anything but the sounds of the crowds yelling and clapping, and it was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  It was amazing to have so many people supporting us for so much of our race, especially when ours is a sport that often has so few spectators.  I tried my best to appreciate the cheers and soak it all in, but the noise made it difficult to focus and find my rhythm.  And the rain just kept getting harder.  The roads became more and more slippery and with little visibility for us all, the peloton was a dangerous place to be.  I was waiting for the race to really get going so it would be safer.  It took a lot of focus to tune out the noise and the conditions.  But once I did, I was locked in “the zone.”

 

The race started to pick up after about 50km when we approached a small climb with a difficult descent.  There was an attack going into the climb and USA had a rider in it, but it looked dangerous and I knew that any small selections on a course like this with the rain and the size of the peloton, would be difficult to control, so I decided to go across to the group.  The peloton came back together at the top but before the descent there was another attack and this time I was on it straight away.  At the bottom of the descent we were already a small group of maybe 10 riders and Marianne Vos of the Netherlands (eventual winner), attacked.  I was on her wheel and we started to ride a little before a group of about 20 came across to us. Unfortunately, no one wanted to ride and the whole group came back together again.   The attacks continued as we made our way to the main climb on Box Hill.

Going into the climb the pace of the peloton increased as everyone fought for position at the front of the group.  I found a good wheel and started the climb very close to the front.  The pace was hard but steady the first time up the climb and the attacks didn’t start until the top where the circuit was like a plateau.  But the attacks were strong and fast and there was again a selection going over the top.  This time I was a little further back than I wanted to be and I was following wheels behind to reconnect to the front group.  Eventually the group came back together as we made our way back around the circuit to the main climb.  This time I started in great position.  I was 3rd wheel behind the Germans and when the Dutch team attacked, I was able to just follow as the German girls closed the gap.  Then came some more attacks by the British team and going over the top was a very aggressive attack by Marianne Vos again.  This time I was on her wheel from the moment she attacked and I knew this would be the decisive move.  As we crested the top of a short but very steep little climb, I looked back only to find Lizzie Armistead, a British rider, with us.  We started to ride immediately, with Vos doing most of the initial work to establish the breakaway.  After a few minutes we had one more rider with us, the Russian, Olga Zabelinskya.  The rain started to come down even harder as our gap began to increase.  We started to ride together and the gap was holding at 20 seconds.  I was sure this was the move that would make it to the finish line together and that I would have an excellent chance at a medal. 

 

All of the pain started to go away as I realized how close I was to my dream of medaling at the Olympic Games.  I started to find my rhythm and changed my focus to how I could win in the sprint.  However, all of that focus and excitement shifted again when I felt my front wheel start to go soft.  I looked down in front of my bike and saw the flat tire and my heart sank.  I only had one option and that was to stop and wait for the motorbike behind me to give me a new wheel.  The change came but it was like everything was in slow motion.  The rain was pouring down now and I knew there was only 30 seconds or less between the break and the chasing peloton.  I knew the change had to be fast if I was even going to get back into the field.  But it wasn’t.  The change was probably the slowest change I have ever had. It took almost a minute for the support to give me a new wheel.  After the group passed I finally got a push back onto the road and began chasing the back of the peloton.  My team dropped back to help me re-connect with the bunch and I was there again, but devastated.

I asked my team to start helping with the chase along with the German and Italian teams who also missed the break.  But it was too late and the break was gone.  The horsepower left in the bunch was not enough to match that of the riders in front and we were unable to catch them.  I tried desperately to keep fighting and stay near the front, in case the break came back or just to contest the sprint for 4th place.  But I was dying inside, both mentally and physically.  I could not believe what happened.  I kept position until the end near the front, but having worked in the break and then chasing to catch back onto the group, I had already burned too many matches. I began my sprint alone, on the opposite side of the road from the sprinters, and finished behind them all in 7th.

 

When the race finished, I sat down in the rain on the side of the road.  My teammate, Evelyn Stevens, came and gave me a hug and I hung my head on her shoulder and cried.  Together we sat in the rain in our dirty, wet cycling clothes as I continued to cry.  It was so hard to pass all the media who were crowded around the medalists.  I wiped the tears from my eyes and held my head high, congratulated the winners, and walked on.  At the end of the line, a reporter from cyclingnews who I know and respect stopped me and asked for some words.  With tears in my eyes, I gave her my story.  You can find it here.

 

I have spent the last 2 weeks wondering why this happened and trying to come to terms with how close I was to success, but there is no changing what happened and I have to move on.  I gave it everything I had, I executed my plan, and I came prepared to compete with the best.  What happened to me was completely out of my control.   This is the nature of our sport.

 

Watching all of the Olympic sports on television now in my home in Spain, I am reminded of how bittersweet sport can be.  Unlike so many other sports, cycling involves the unavoidable variables that can rob of us glory.  It doesn’t matter how ready, strong, or smart we are that day.  We can always crash, have mechanical problems with the bike, and flat tires.  Bad weather can cause more crashes, more problems with the bikes, and a lot more flat tires.  A crash or mechanical can prevent the best riders from even contesting the win, when maybe they have raced perfectly for 3-4 hours. You can be the strongest for the whole race and you may not be the winner.  Our hopes and dreams go into one race, and there is only one chance at a medal. You either get it or you don’t, then you must wait 4 more years for a shot at a medal.  And you hope that the next chance you have, the course is suited for you.  In swimming, the course never changes, the weather never affects your performance, and if you miss a shot at a medal, you may have 5-10 more chances at an Olympic medal.

 

Cycling is like this.  Opportunities don’t come often, so you need to take advantage of every chance that you get, because it may be a long time before all the pieces fall into place again.

 

Thanks for reading ~Shelley

2012 Giro Donne

The 2012 Women’s Giro d’ Italia was a success for both my team, AA Drink/Leontien Cycling, and myself. I have always loved this race, since I first participated in 2009. It is a true classic and, for me, the most prestigious and challenging race on the women’s UCI calendar The race allows us as riders to see so much of Italy, from the south to the north and all in between. In just one week and a half, we covered almost all of the Italian countryside.

 

This year’s tour had us changing hotels every night except for one. This meant that we would wake in the morning, eat breakfast, transfer to the start, race 3-4 hours, transfer to the next hotel, eat dinner, and sleep. Every morning we would do exactly the same thing. Wake, eat, race, drive, eat, and sleep. There really wasn’t much time to do anything else. This type of race really teaches you how to find your rhythm of racing. It allows you to practice over and over again, the little things that go into preparation for the race and recovery after, because you do it over and over again. You almost become like a machine, moving through the steps like a robot by the end of the tour, as the fatigue starts to set in.

 

I found the 2012 Giro to be challenging, but I think it provided opportunities for all different types of riders. There were sprint days, climber days, breakaway days, and a short time trial. I truly enjoyed each day of racing because I was a part of team with someone for every type of terrain.

 

The race started with a very long, very hot race out of Napoli. We started with a 7km neutral, which lasted 30 mins. This was followed by a 140 km flat stage. Everyone finished on the same time and the race ended in a massive bunch sprint. I was 2nd in the final and found myself very close to the victory, so this would fuel my fire to win in the next stage ending in a field sprint. 

 

The second stage was a short 7.2 km time trial.  I was sitting second on GC, so that added a little pressure, but I felt good about the course and was excited to race.  It was very technical with lots of places to accelerate and change speed, so it was a good course for a sprinter.  I started and I knew immediately that I was giving it my all.  My lungs hurt and my legs were burning from start to finish.  When I finished, I heard them announce my time as 3rd best, with only one rider to go.  Well, that rider happened to be the best rider in the World, Marianne Vos, so I didn’t expect to hold on to the podium.  She finished first, 5 seconds faster than 2nd place and 15 seconds faster than me. I watched the video of the stage later that night and I learned a few things about time-trialing just watching her race.  I could see how badly she wanted to win.  In every moment, in every pedal stroke, she was fighting for the win like her life depended on it.  This is the style of a champion. 

The next few days took us into the climbs where I would be supporting my GC rider, Emma Pooley.  I would try to put her in position before the climbs, keep her out of the wind, maybe try to establish a breakaway for her benefit, or keep the race together and controlled, so that she could do her thing when the big climbs and decisive moments came.  Emma moved into 3rd on GC over the next two stages and the team was happy but anxious to help her try to win. 

 

Stages 5 and 6 were flat days.  Stage 5 turned out to be a sort of recovery day for most of us.  A solo break went up the road shortly after the start and she gained 12 minutes on the field at one point.  Everyone was content to let her go and our team did not want to take the responsibility to bring her back.  So, we played poker and she rode away.  The sprint for 2nd was a bit chaotic and I sat this one out for safety. 

 

Stage 6 turned out to be a stage I will remember for a very long time.  It was a difficult stage with some rolling terrain, lots of attempts at a breakaway, and many times where there were splits in the field.  I was in the breakaway early in the stage, for about 20km until the team of the leader brought us back.  Then it was a series of attacks until the finish line.  I had no idea what the finish looked like, I only knew that the signs from 3km to go were generally accurate.  So, I focused on staying near the front and watching the km signs until the finish.  In the last 3 km I had some help from my teammate, Sharon Laws, keeping me in the front and protecting me from the wind.  With about 1 km to go, she dropped me off on the wheel of the sprinters and I followed wheels to the line.  I was in a perfect position with 200m to go and was able to pull off what might be the biggest victory of my career.  I was ecstatic.  The best thing about the victory was that it was the 4th of July and I was winning not just for me, but also for my country.  It was an incredible feeling. Check out this video to see the sprint.

 

 Stage 7 was back in the climbs, but I had a goal to try to be in the breakaway and I worked really hard to do that in the beginning of the race.  After about 30km the break was established and I was in it.  We were 12 riders and we stayed away for almost the entire race.  However, we were caught just before the final climb and I was totally cooked when the lead riders caught us.  I just survived over the climb and rode easy to the finish line.  My job this day was to be in the breakaway to support my teammates behind and allow them not to work.  This would give my GC rider an opportunity to try to win in the final climb, having not had to work or control any breakaways for the first ¾ of the race. 

 

Stage 8 was a bad one for the team.  It was a hard race from the beginning with some small circuits for the first 50km that included lots of climbs and up and down terrain.  The field split in two pieces after the first 10km and we lost 2 of our riders.   After the heavy part of the race was over, it was mostly flat to the finish, but the GC riders had something other than a field sprint in mind.  The 3 GC leaders that were most dangerous to our GC rider attacked in the last 20km and we missed the move.  So, we were in the unfortunate position of having to chase in the last 15km and not able to focus on another field sprint.  We put our whole team on the front, except for me in case the break came back, but it wasn’t enough to bring them back.  Three riders finished 40 seconds in front of the chasing peloton and I won the field sprint for 4th.  But it was a bad day for us as a team and there was no celebrating afterwards.  We had things to discuss in our meeting. 

 

The best part of making the mistakes we made on stage 8 was that we were able to correct them on the last day of racing in Stage 9.  Emma Pooley was not happy with the result of the day before and she was ready to make it up to her team.   The race was 110km with three climbs.  Our goal again was to make a breakaway and have some teammates up the road when our GC rider came across with the other leaders.  Today my legs felt like logs.  They were so tired and painful.  Every acceleration I made, had them loading up with lactic acid and it didn’t go away.  It lingered in my legs for minutes after I stopped pushing.  But I knew I only had one day left and that if I did my job, I would be helping my team.  So, I attacked and attacked and attacked in the first 20km until the breakaway was finally established.  This time though, I wasn’t in it.  I had 2 teammates in the break and another one bridging the gap.  So it was a group of 15 riders and we had 3 in it.  This was a success.  The break rode hard and survived the climbs until the leaders caught them in the last kilometers.  One of my teammates, Lucinda Brand, was able to set up Emma for the perfect attack.  This attack would be the decisive move of the race and the one where she moved herself from 3rd GC into 2nd.  She was third on the stage and finished the tour with the Mountains Jersey. 

 

 

When the Giro was finished, we had a stage win, 2nd GC, and the mountains jersey, as well as a number of podium finishes.  It was a success for the team.  Even though we had some ups and downs, and made some mistakes along the way, we finished the tour on a positive note and we all walked away very satisfied with our work as a team.  For me personally, my goal for the 2012 Giro was to win a stage, support my team for our GC ambitions, and use the race as preparation for the Olympic Games.  I did not expect these goals to be easy to achieve, but in the end I got exactly what I needed from the Giro.  And I am happy and ready for London!!!

 

 

Thanks for listening ~Shelley


Leaving Livigno

As part of my preparation for the Olympic Games, I spent some time in the small country of Livigno, on the border of Italy and Switzerland.  Just being in Livingo put me at 1,800 meters altitude, which is much higher than my normal residence at sea level on the beach in L’Estartit, Spain.   Every day, my training took me to an even higher elevation, as high as 2,700 meters.  Here, I would learn to love to climb.

My time was spent training and recovering, which are my two priorities and what I am completely focused on up until the Olympic Road Race on July 29th.  Outside of this, I was able to create a personal website so that all of my family, friends, and fans can follow me on this journey of a lifetime.

There were dozens of other cyclists in Livigno, training for the Giro like me, or training for the Tour de France, and quite possibly also for the Olympic Games.  I saw Rasmussen of Garmin, Rogers and Sutton of Team Sky, Albasini and Linda Villumsen of GreenEdge, Larsson of Vacansoliel, Quinziato of BMC, the Italian and Australian National Teams, and the RusVelo Team. I also saw many athletes from other sports, like running, speed walking, cross-country skiing, and track & field.  Some of these athletes were also training on the bike.  It was both motivational and inspirational to see so many other athletes every day.

Every day I crossed paths, literally, with some kind of animal.  There were healthy and clean cows everywhere, marmottes wrestling, horses and their babies, ponies and their babies, and herds of sheep in the strangest places.  The place was epically beautiful and it had everything that I needed as far as training to prepare for the challenge ahead of me.

One of the best things about staying in Livigno was that it reminded me of my fondest memory in cycling.  In 2010, a stage of the women’s Giro d’ Italia (the most prestigious race on the calendar for women), finished in Livigno.  The next day, and what would be the 9th stage of the tour that year, the race started in Livigno and finished at the top of an epic 20km climb called Stelvio.  These were the “queen” stages of the 2010 Giro and where the race was ultimately decided.

That year, I was racing for my second consecutive year in the red white and blue colors of the USA National Team.  We were a team of 8 incredibly talented riders with the best director in the business, Manel Lacambra, directing the team.  The Stelvio stage would prove to be the decisive day for Mara.  About half way up the climb, Mara was in front riding with only Emma Pooley of Great Britain.  She waited until just the right moment and attacked with 2 km to go and put more than a minute in her rival before the top.  That day Mara sealed the overall victory.

We knew that we were racing for Mara from the day the tour began, but it took until almost the last stage for her to take the leaders jersey.  Every day we had one primary goal, protect the eventual winner of the tour, and we strongly believed as a whole that the winner was on our team.  Day after day we met our goal and if something else could be taken out of the stage, then we took it.  Like practicing the leadouts for the sprints, working as a team on the front to split the field, or putting our girls on the front in the climbs to position Mara and make a little pain for her rivals. Everyday we were working towards the end goal, overall victory of the most prestigious race in the world for women.  Throughout the experience of the 2010 Giro d’ Italia I learned about sacrifice, patience, and persistence.  But what I learned most was how to be a part of a team.

In 2010, the US National team won the Giro d’ Italia with Mara Abbott, the first time an American had ever won the race.  I think what made this race so special for all of us that year was that we did it together, as a team.  We made history, as a team.  We suffered and triumphed as a team.

When it was all said and done, we won three stages and the overall.  I won the field sprint on the last day to claim what is still my biggest victory and the one for which I am most proud.  But I did not win alone.  I had the help of all my teammates, especially Sinead Miller and Theresa Clif-Ryan.  Sinead put and kept me in the best position to win in the last 3km and Theresa gave me the perfect leadout to drop me off at 300m to go.

 

I was elated after the race for the personal victory and the victory of the team.  So often in cycling, the winner is the only rider that is recognized.  It’s really a shame.  I have won a handful of international races in my life.  I can tell you that this victory was the most memorable one for me because when I finished the race and came to thank my team, everyone shared in the celebration.  I could see the smiles on each of the girl’s faces and we were all genuinely happy and proud of OUR accomplishment.  That for me, was the best feeling and the best moment in cycling.

Check out this beautiful video that was put together for our team after our victory.

As I prepare for the Giro d’ Italia again this year, I look forward to being a part of a team with ambitions of and the ability to win the overall.  But a little further down the road, I look forward to being a part of the US National Team again as we look to accomplish our goal of winning a medal in the Road Race for the first time since 1984.

Check back in for updates from the road for the Giro d’ Italia.  It starts June 29th and ends July 7th.  Thanks for reading ~Shelley

 

 

 

Welcome to my Website!!

I want to take this first blog entry as an opportunity to thank all of the amazing people who have supported me throughout my career in cycling.  Huge thanks goes out to Jason Lardy and Nomad Marketing for the beautiful and professional design of this website.  Jason is such a pleasure to work with.  He is extremely organized, creative, and knowledgeable and I am continuously impressed by his work.  Check out his website here and if you are interested in having a website designed, he’s your guy!!

 

I want to thank my coaches, Manel Lacambra and Jaume Mas, for keeping me focused and driven to perform at my very best.  They have selflessly sacrificed so much time to helping me achieve my goals.  I am lucky to have such talented coaches around me and it is an honor to work with them both.

 

Thanks also to all of my product sponsors who make sure that I am equipped with everything I need to make this journey on the bike.  From footwear, to nutrition, to therapeutic tape, to eyewear, to training software, to clothing, helmets and all of the many components and accessories of the bike. I really feel like I am using all the best products on the market.  I am so grateful for and proud to represent all of my amazing sponsors.

 

Next I would like to thank one very special woman who has recently come into my life to offer her support and expertise.  Cathy Wong, founder of Champion Mobile Notary is a personal sponsor and a huge fan of women’s cycling and I am incredibly grateful to have her support.  If you ever need mobile notary services or loan signing, she’s the best!

 

And last but not least, I have to thank my family for never giving up hope and always believing in me.  This season has brought many challenges and many personal ups and downs.  My family and close friends were always there for me no matter what I was experiencing.  They pushed me to keep fighting, but they promised to love me no matter what the outcome.  And I would never have been able to overcome the adversity or fully enjoy the successes of the last year without their love and support.

 

I hope you will enjoy my website.  I am very excited to share my experiences and this journey with all of you.  Thanks for reading  ~Shelley

Roanoke College News

Here’s a nice article from my college newsletter.

I miss my days of playing soccer at Roanoke College…..