Olds climbs to cycling’s highest rankings

In print and on the Web, Shelley Olds '03 is heralded in article after article with words like "diminutive powerhouse," "dynamo" and "five-foot assassin" - strong descriptors that perhaps conjure images of 'WrestleMania.'

 In truth, the words aren't completely off-base in describing Olds, who is emerging as one of the world's top women competitive cyclists. She is a member of Diadora Pasta-Zara, an American professional women's cycling team based in Italy. A California resident since graduating from Roanoke, Olds currently is living Costa Brava, Spain, her home base while she competes in road races and prepares for a shot at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

"It is a beautiful country with excellent weather and the perfect place for a cyclist to train," she says of Spain.

Olds is a relative newcomer to cycling. At Roanoke, she served as captain of the Women's Soccer Team for two consecutive years. She was named All-State, All-Region, and was nominated as an All-American. Her introduction to cycling came just six years ago, while riding on the back of a tandem mountain bike.

Olds has since soared, becoming one of the highest-ranked women's cyclists in the world. Initially, she competed in track cycling but is now pursuing her dream of competing in the Olympic Games in road cycling. She has turned her focus to preparing for and being selected for the U.S. women's cycling team that will compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Her competition schedule for 2011 sounds grueling. From February through October of this year, she is competing in a full schedule of road races, beginning with the Tour of New Zealand in mid-February, followed by two months in Europe racing in Italy, Belgium and Holland. Then, she flies back to the United States in June for a block of racing on home soil. The rest of the season includes Women's Giro d'Italia - the world's most prestigious women's race, essentially the equivalent of the men's Tour de France - followed by more racing in France, Holland, Germany and Switzerland.

Olds already has amassed quite a collection of triumphs. She is a three-time national champion in two disciplines of cycling - road and track.  In 2010, she won the Pan American Road Championships, the final stage at the Women's Giro D'Italia, the Elite Criterium U.S. National Championships, and four stages and the overall general classification at the Tour of New Zealand. In 2008-2009, she won the Elite Scratch Race National Championships.

"I am very excited to start the season and feel very grateful for the opportunities I have been given in the sport," says Olds, who in her down time is an associate coach for the Whole Athlete Performance Center in Marin, Calif. "It doesn't happen all the time that women progress in the sport as I have, but it is not uncommon.

"It is a tough sport and you have to be sincerely passionate and dedicated as well as disciplined to have success in the sport. I learned a lot about passion and dedication at Roanoke, being a part of the athletic programs there, so I was well-prepared for the challenge ahead of me."