As Shelley Olds turned the corner onto Hennepin Avenue Friday night — the finish line of the Nature Valley Grand Prix’s Uptown Minneapolis Criterium in her sight with just one lap to go — Olds had but one thought running through her mind
“Get through this corner, and you’ll be fine,” she said to herself.
It was at that corner two years ago in her last Nature Valley Grand Prix appearance that Olds crashed on her second to last lap. She never crossed the finish line.
But Friday, that very corner was a scene of redemption for the 2012 Olympian. Olds sprinted past the leaders on the final turn, ultimately finishing second in the stage and improving her overall standing.
“Today our goal was to get closer to taking over the winner’s jersey, and we did that,” said Olds, who competes with team TIBCO. “The goal of the team is not to win the stage, it’s to win the tour.”
Olds’ finishes in Wednesday and Thursday’s stages put her in third place overall, behind Jade Wilcoxson and Carmen Small, coming into the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium. Wilcoxson held on to her yellow leader’s jersey with a victory on Friday, while Olds jumped to second in the overall standings with her second-place finish.
On the men’s side, Juan Jose Haedo finished first in the Uptown Criterium, his second stage victory, while Travis McCabe and Michael Friedman finished second and third, respectively. Friedman, who came into Friday’s race ahead overall by 37 seconds, held on to his top overall spot.
Far from over
With Saturday’s Menomonie Road Race and Sunday’s Stillwater Criterium left to complete before the champion can be crowned, Olds knows the current standings are far from being final.
As past trials in Olds’ career have proved to her, the race isn’t over and the winner cannot be determined until the last lap of the last race has been finished.
Olds was one of four U.S. women to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and more than halfway through the biggest race of her six-year career, she was a part of a breakaway and in a position to be a medal contender.
Shortly thereafter, she noticed her tire getting soft. It had flattened. By the time she changed it, Olds had lost ground and eventually finished the race in seventh place.
“It was there and then gone in a matter of seconds,” Olds said.
A five-time competitor in the Nature Valley Grand Prix, Olds is well aware that with two stages left to go, the race is still wide open. But for now, she’s just glad to be where she is, even if it’s not yet in the top spot.
“It’s over,” she said after Friday’s race, a calm grin stretching across her face. “I’m happy to finish on my bike.”