When I first met Shelley Olds, she was a budding track cycling star who was still navigating the nuisances of road cycling. But throughout the course of her professional career, the one constant has been the Olympic dream.
While it would take some sacrifice and a move from away from her comfort zone, in a few days, Shelley will represent the United States of America at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
I caught up with Shelley shortly after this year’s Giro Donne to discuss the London Games and what it took to be an Olympian.
Lenny B (LB): During the early part of your career, you were known predominantly for your exploits on the pines, did you ever envision back then, or for that matter just four short years ago, that you would be an Olympian on the road?
Shelley Olds (SO): One thing has always been the same for me. I have always wanted to be an Olympian. I first hoped to be a part of the USA Women’s Olympic Soccer Team, then the Track Cycling Team for the Points Race, and now the Women’s Road Race Team. It has been in my heart since I was a child. I have wanted this as long as I can remember and I am happy to have found it in Road Cycling.
LB: When you first heard that you were selected what thoughts crossed your mind? Were you able to celebrate?
SO: I was ecstatic, but I was in the middle of a competition in Italy and I happened to be staying that night with 3 other teammates in a small hotel room. Because of the time difference between Europe and America, I got the news at around midnight and I was lying in bed with all the lights out. My teammates were asleep but I could hardly contain myself. I jumped out of bed, left the room and called my mother. The whole hotel was quiet and all I wanted to do was scream. I remember talking to my parents on the phone and all of us crying and laughing and them yelling and me whispering. It was a funny scene. I wish I were a fly on the wall for that one….
LB: You were a big part of helping grow a team in Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 [currently ExergyTWENTY12] whose main focus was the Olympic dream, but like many other American women before you, you decided to take your talents to Europe. Was it a difficult transition? What adjustments, if any, did you have to make personally and/or professionally/technically?
SO: Yes. I have made a lot of sacrifices by moving overseas and the transition definitely wasn’t easy. I miss my family a lot. I have had to adapt to a different currency, different languages, different eating habits, different lifestyles, etc. But I believe that it has been worth it for me to make these sacrifices and learn to adapt in this new environment. I believe the constant stimulus of racing in Europe against the best riders in the World is the fastest and the best way to learn how to be successful in women’s road cycling.
LB: With your Olympic berth, the move to Europe has obviously worked to your benefit. Is it a path you would recommend to all young aspiring Americans?
SO: I believe that to really be able to learn and grow as a professional female cyclist, you have to race consistently against the best in the World. And the best riders in the World in road cycling, are in Europe. There are also an endless number of races here, and living within Europe makes it easy to travel back and forth to races. You don’t have to travel overseas every time you want to compete in a race and between races you can go home to where you are most comfortable. I think, to be competitive in Road World Championships and the Olympic Road Race, we as American cyclists have to learn how to win in Europe first.
SO: I would like that the Olympic Road Race finishes in a sprint, either in a small group or in a big group.
LB: You recently tackled the Giro Donne. What type of results are you hoping for in Italy? What is the rest of your schedule like in the run up to London? Do you take some time off to relax or do you have obligations to the team up until the Olympics?
SO: My goal in the Giro was to win a stage and train hard, and I am happy to have accomplished my goals. I will not race again before the Olympic Road Race. I will focus on specific training and final preparations for the Games. I will stay in my home in Spain until I leave for London.
LB: How do you feel about being named to this top 50 list, chiming in at #27.
SO: In regards to being named to that list, I would much rather be recognized for my potential or my achievements as an athlete, as a cyclist, than for what I look like.
LB: Tell me about your new website and other avenues for your fans to follow you.
SO: Yes, I am very happy to have my new website, www.shelleyoldsusa.com. I want to thank Jason Lardy of Nomad Marketing for helping me design the site. I also have a Facebook fan page for Shelley Olds Athlete, as well as a twitter account at @ShelleyJOlds.
To help support Shelley in her Olympic and professional dreams, click here.
Photos: USA Cycling (top); Manel Lacambra via Twitter (bottom).