After a difficult start to her 2012 season, Shelley Olds has turned her fortunes around in the space of 500 metres. The 31-year-old Boston-raised American came to China with doubts about her form, having broken her wrist at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda World Cup race in Italy only six weeks prior.
Images: Tour of Chongming Island
Having finished 16th, 3rd and 4th, respectively, over the three days of Tour of Chongming Island earlier this week, Olds (AA Drink – Leontien.nl) finally edged out 2012 Tour of Chongming Island overall victor Melissa Hoskins (GreenEDGE-AIS), and stage two winner Monia Baccaille (MCipollini Giambenini), in a bunch sprint today. With this World Cup win, Olds’ Olympics dreams are alive again.
“It’s been a long season of not racing for me,” said Olds earlier this week, on the first morning of the Tour of Chongming Island stage race. “I had a broken wrist for the last six weeks. This is my second race back, but really the first one where I feel ready to race. My 2012 objective was the Olympics until I had this injury, but I’m trying to get back on my feet and have fun. It’s been really tough, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Olds’ team had drawn on its Tour of Chongming Island experience from the previous week to determine who the main rivals would be for today’s World Cup race. “It was pretty clear who the strongest teams were in the sprints and who was going to take control in the final,” explained Olds, “and it happened again today just like it happened in the Tour of Chongming. You had GreenEDGE do a fantastic lead-out and also MCipollini lined up in a train. So we decided our best bet was to find a place in one of those trains and I had Lucinda Brand as my girl who kept me there. She was the key to my win today. In the last 500 metres, the race was becoming boxed in but she found a small hole and got us out of it. She allowed me to have a clear line to the finish. Without Lucinda today, I wouldn’t have won.”
With a World Cup victory to her name, Olds appeared weightless during her short walk to the winner’s podium, but seemed unsure whether today’s win was enough for a London call-up. “It’s a big result,” stated Olds. “I’m not sure if it gets me to the Olympics, but I think a World Cup win was one of the automatic qualifiers. I’m hopeful that I’ll be in London; I find out at the end of May. It’s very, very, good news today, so I’m trying not to get excited (about the Olympics). Today, I’m just happy to feel good again in cycling and share this win with my team, who put this together.
I haven’t raced with the team too much all year; Tour of Chongming Island is one of the first times we’ve all come together. During those three days, we just needed to keep trying, keep believing in one goal and stick with it. We’ve got a great group of mentally and physically strong women, and we just kept at it and got better every day.”
Since 2010, the fifth round of the eight-race UCI Women’s World Cup series has taken place in Chongming Island alongside the stage race of the same name. It is the only elite women’s World Cup road cycling race held outside of Europe. This year, two unique ingredients were added to make the otherwise-flat course more interesting; it is the first time the race has started off the island, and the first time the full length of the 25.5km Shanghai Yangtze tunnel-bridge has been used in a sporting event.
84 riders began today’s 120.4-kilometre point-to-point race from Pudong’s Oriental Sport Center in Shanghai at 11:30am. Misty drizzle had wet the roads, but a strong headwind caused a greater challenge for the bunch, which held a low average speed of 35kph for the first hour of racing. Once out of the 8.4 kilometre tunnel, GreenEDGE-AIS, Hitec Products – Mistral and MCipollini Giambenini teams animated the race on the ascent to the bridge’s midpoint, 70 metres above the Yangtze River, but no successful breaks formed.
Sprinter Lang Meng (China) of China Chongming – Giant team waits for neutral support as anxious local spectators look on
With a favourable wind pushing the peloton along the western side of Chongming Island, the 16 teams seemed resigned to a cautious tempo in anticipation of a final bunch sprint. With her teammates preserving a key position at the head of the field, Hoskins did not need to look far for chief rival Baccaille; a handshake away, flanked by her MCipollini Giambenini squad.
In the closing kilometres, teams hustled for space across the full width of the now-dry roads. The contour of a small bridge, 350 metres from the finish line, provided sprinters with a slight downhill to start their final kick. Olds began her sprint, with Hoskins on her wheel, on the road’s left-hand side, while Baccaille chose a line from the opposite side. As the three riders came together on Baccaille’s half of the road, 200 metres from the finish, Hoskins sprinted alongside Olds, while Baccaille pulled away from the American’s back wheel with 50 metres remaining. In a clean but extremely close finish, Hoskins and Olds pushed over the line a bike length ahead of Baccaille.
Lucinda Brand (AA Drinks – Leontien.nl), 9th in today’s race
“I was only hoping to get a good wheel (for Shelley), but I also had to worry about my own sprint because I already have points in the World Cup; so it was difficult to see what was happening in front. I couldn’t see Shelley win, but she was so strong in the Tour of Chongming Island, getting onto the podium on the second day. We knew that she was strong enough to do it.
I thought it was great to see so many people at the side of the road and it’s also so nice to have all of the volunteers. A lot of countries can learn from it, also the Netherlands. It’s great that people here want to give their time for cycling.”
Danny Stam, Team Manager, AA Drinks – Leontien.nl Team Manager
“Shelley has been coming back from injury, so we had to figure out what tactics we needed over the last three days (during the Tour of Chongming Island stage race) to find out what is the best way to win (the World Cup).
We expected the race to split up at the bridge, so our first target was to be there at the front with as many of our girls as possible, but the bunch stayed together. We always kept trust in Shelley and the team and I think the last couple of days we all believed that they could win the race.
At first I was a little bit afraid to go to China, but I think it’s a very good organisation and I’m happy that China is getting into cycling and nice races like this. I hope we can come back next year.”
David McPartland, Team Manager, GreenEDGE (pre-stage)
“Melissa will be the leader on the road today, but if the wind comes up Judith (Arndt) will have a free card to play if it splits up. From behind, we’ll cover Mel as much as possible if it comes back together.
You’re only as good as your last win, and we have to be on the ball the whole day. I said to the girls this morning that we can’t let our guard down. The best thing is we have confidence from the previous week. Our lead-out train is our best asset at the moment.
I reckon Shelley Olds, if it comes back together for a bunch sprint, is a danger rider. Even Charlotte Becker could be a threat. Gilmore too, if it comes to a bunch sprint. You have to expect a big battle from Monia Baccaille and MCipollini too.
Chongming Island has impressed me to be honest. I’ve been to China before as a rider, over ten years ago. I had different expectations, but have been pleasantly surprised with the hotel and the food. They’ve done an awesome job; we can’t complain about it not being organized. From a team director’s point of view, everything’s easy and taken care of.
I know Gerry is following every race closely, because he’s so passionate about the sport. Coming into China, it’s probably an area of interest for him as well. There was talk of (getting a Chinese girl in the future) but it hasn’t eventuated. I’m not sure what will happen in the future. The talent pool here is increasing, but there is a little way to go.”
RESULTS – INDIVIDUAL
RESULTS – TEAM