After six years of cycling, and spending the past few years as a professional rider in Europe, Shelley Olds is five months away from fulfilling her longtime dream of riding in the Olympics.
Late last year, Olds was named to the United States Cycling short list for the Olympic road long team. The Olympic road long course will go 140 kilometers – about 87 miles – and the time trial will be 29 km, a little more than 18 miles.
The list names 13 American cyclists, and the top four will be given spots on the 2012 Olympic squad in London. Team USA will make its selections in May based on the upcoming season.
To prepare for the biggest season of her life, Olds, 31, who grew up in Groton, Mass., and moved to Los Gatos in 2003, decided to live with her parents in Gilroy and train in the surrounding area. In November, she made the move to the Central Coast and trained nonstop until late January, when she flew to Qatar to begin the new cycling season.
“I spent my whole winter training here in Gilroy, in the Gilroy area and also in Hollister,” Olds said. “It was great riding down Panoche Road, (Highway) 25 and all these roads around here. I had an excellent winter of training here to reach the 2012 Olympics, which is an ultimate goal.”
With no women’s Tour de France, the summer Olympics are the pinnacle of women’s cycling.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” she said. “The Olympics for women in cycling is the ultimate event. It’s what you aim for in your whole career. This is the ultimate thing to achieve in cycling. To know the first team is down and I’m on the short team; it’s a real thing that can happen. I can make the team to London.”
First, Olds needs to continue her career trajectory that has allowed her to blossom into one of the best riders in the world over the past few years.
Last year, while competing for the Italian-based Diadora Pasta-Zara, Olds won her second straight USA Cycling Elite Women’s National Championship despite injuring her ribs in a crash during the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Because of her results, Olds earned a spot on the Olympic short list.
To earn a spot on the squad, Olds moved to the Dutch-based AA Drink-Leontien.nl for this year’s season. She will spend the rest of the year in Europe competing for the top-four finish.
It will be one of the best teams,” Olds said. “I will be permanently based in Europe after I leave here.”
Choosing California’s Central Coast as a place to train was perfect.
“It’s an excellent place for training,” she said. “You have all types of terrain to choose from, everything from big mountains to flat ground. We have the track in San Jose and all types of weather.
“This year, I was really fortunate to have chosen to train here because the weather was freaking incredible,” she continued.
With the lack of rain, Olds was never forced to change her training methods.
“I think we had two days of rain where I couldn’t ride, and I just took them as days off,” she said. “It didn’t affect my training at all. Normally, sometimes the weather and winter here can be raining a lot, but it was perfect. It makes the training a lot nicer and easier.”
Training, though, can be taxing. Six days a week, Olds would ride through the Gilroy-Hollister terrain for anywhere between two to six hours.
“I did everything I planned on doing,” she said.
“You don’t start out there. You start out with three hours and you increase it as it goes on,” Olds continued. “You back it back down for racing. It will increase my chances of making the Olympic team.”
During the new season in Europe, which runs Feb. 5-10 in Qatar, all of her decisions will be focused on making the Olympic squad.
“Everything I do now is in anticipation of me making the team,” she said. “I believe I should be on the team. And I have the results, and I expect to get the results the rest of the year. I’m just really happy to be here and to be realizing a dream I’ve had a longtime.”
She’ll find out in May if she accomplished her goal.
One thing is for sure though, Olds will return to the Gilroy area to train again.
“Yeah, for sure,” she said. “Because I have family here and I love my country. Also, people in other countries, who I race with and live in Germany, they have to go somewhere else to train … they go to Spain. They have to go somewhere to train, and I have this nice luxury to come home and be with my family. We have excellent training here in Gilroy. I would definitely come back here and train.”