There were few crueller moments at the London 2012 Olympics than the misfortune that befell Shelley Olds in the women's road race. Having withstood the welter of attacking over the final ascent of Box Hill, the American was part of the four-woman winning break when her front wheel began to deflate, and with it, her hopes of an Olympic medal.
Six months on, the trauma of that moment may have been digested, but the memory is one that can surely never fully subside. Even so, Olds was admirably stoic in her recollection of the incident when she spoke to Cyclingnews at the Ladies Tour of Qatar.
"I have nothing but fond memories of the Olympics," said Olds, pointing in particular to her build-up to the Games, which included a Giro Donne stage win and victory at the Tour of Chongming Island.
"I was there in the move on the right moment and I was strong, but bad luck is just part of bike racing. I just happened to have it that day and the wrong moment, but what can you do? I can't do anything about that. I did my best to come back into the race and fight it out in the sprint, but hey, that's bike racing."
Olds ultimately finished in 7th place on the Mall in London, but faced with Marianne Vos, Lizzie Armitstead and Olga Zabelinskaya, she would have fancied her chances of at least a podium spot in an eventual four-up sprint. "I believe I had a sure good chance of medalling or maybe even gold," she said ruefully. "I don't know but I believe I had a medal."
Olds' Olympic story was all the more remarkable because she had begun the four-year cycle aiming to compete on the track in London. When, in 2009, the UCI announced that the points race would no longer be on the Olympic programme, she duly changed her focus to the road.
"I still had plenty of time to focus on the road when they changed the programme and I was already riding the road as a supplement," she said, downplaying the switch, and Olds has a similar sense of perspective on the ill luck that befell her on the rain-soaked run-in to London.
"I was a little depressed but you let it go. It's bike racing and it's not the end of the world. I'm back here because I love it. I was at the Olympics and I loved it too, and that doesn't change because of what happened in the end."
After spending 2012 at AA Drink-leontien.nl, Olds has joined Team TIBCO-To The Top during the off-season, and while the new experience is still at an early stage, she was enthusiastic about life on the team.
"It's the best feeling I've ever had inside of a team, it's an amazing group," she said. "We have to learn to ride together because we're all new to this team but I think we have really strong riders and great leaders in this team and once we start to get a little comfortable with each, we'll start to do really good things."
On the opening two days in Qatar, Olds was among the many big names who were caught on the wrong foot when the peloton split in the crosswinds that characterise racing on the peninsula. "It takes one moment to lose the entire race and be out of it. It's just something where you need to be in the right place at the right time always and when you miss it, it's gone. I don't think it's a lack of form, I just need to be smarter and better in the wind."
On Thursday's stage three, Olds duly made the front group when the race broke up on the run-in to Madinat Al Shamal, and took 5th place in the sprint. The season is still long, and Rio is just three and a half years away and counting.
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