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Evans' Olympic dreams switch to the road

Shelley Evans (right) with her Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 teammate Lauren Tamayo

Shelley Evans (right) with her Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 teammate Lauren Tamayo (Image credit: Nicola Cranmer)

Track rider Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12) has turned her focus toward competing in the road race for the 2012 London Olympic Games after the International Olympic Committee removed her specialty, the points race, from the Olympic track program. She is currently racing on the road at the mountainous SRAM Tour of the Gila, a five-stage race that concludes on Sunday in Silver City, New Mexico.

"I’m trying to raise my game and show that I can be versatile," Evans told Cyclingnews. "I can be a support rider and not just a sprinter, you don’t lose me on the climbs and I can be there to offer something to a team. I want to be able to be there with the climbers. I am here because I want to be able to show that I can be a part of the race."

Evans is currently riding in support of her Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 teammate and overall race leader Mara Abbott. With two stages remaining, Abbott leads the race by over a minute to Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) and an additional two minutes to Erinne Willock (Webcor-Builders).

"We have an excellent team here and we have a number of cards to play," Evans said. "I know I have one of the best climbers in the world on my team and my goal is to support her as best I can."

Evans’ cycling career began on the track, where she progressed into a position as one of the US's top point race riders. She is currently the US Track Scratch Race National Champion and finished on the podium in three track World Cups in Manchester, Melbourne and Copenhagen last year. She spent the previous three years focused on her dream of competing in the 2012 Olympic Games in the points race.

However, in December the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Cycling Union (UCI) agreed to make changes to the Olympic track program to provide more gender equality. Part of the adjustment meant removing the points race as an individual event and adding it to a five-event omnium format, which also includes the flying lap, individual pursuit, scratch race, 500-metre time trial and elimination race.

"I started to focus on the track and my Olympic goals were on the track in the points race," Evans said. "They changed the Olympic track program and took my race out. When they took my track event out, along with my hopes and dreams, I was like, 'well, now I'll focus 100 per cent on the road.'"

Evans took to road racing with the Proman-Hit Squad last year with immediate success. She won the overall omnium at the Tulsa Tough, finished second in the overall at the Nature Valley Grand Prix and was third place at the prestigious Liberty Classic. The US National Team rewarded her for her success with an invitation to the women's Giro d' Italia, where she place second in stage eight.

This summer, Evans is scheduled to compete in the Liberty Classic, Nature Valley Grand Prix and the US Elite National Championships. She hopes to receive another invitation to the women's Giro. The ten-stage race will begin on July 2 in Muggia and conclude on July 11 in Monza.

"I’m really hoping to go to the Giro," Evans said. "That is really a big goal for me and my only goal right now is for Europe. It’s a big enough goal because I want to go over and do well." Asked if she thinks the US National Team will consider her for the 2012 London Olympic Games in the road race, Evans said, "I hope so."