Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Marianne Vos, right, of The Netherlands, leads Elizabeth Armitstead, of Britain, into the final stretch of the women's road cycling race at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Sunday, July 29, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, Pool) )
Flat tire halts American cyclist Shelley Olds’ medal dreams
Olympics » Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead grabs England’s first medal.
First Published Jul 29 2012 01:51 pm • Last Updated Jul 30 2012 12:07 am

London • Shelley Olds of Gilroy, Calif., did a little hip wiggle Sunday just moments before the biggest race of her life.

The American cyclist then tapped her handlebars as if she were tweeting on a keyboard.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

With Buckingham Palace as the backdrop Olds, 31, then sped away from the green space known as the Mall, joining 66 other women on an 89-mile jaunt through the streets of London in the Olympic women’s road race.

With 22.3 miles left, Olds found herself in a breakaway and staring down a possible Olympic victory only five years after taking up the sport.

Then suddenly, the fickle fate of cycling grabbed her. She suffered a flat and fell off the blistering pace set by Russian Olga Zabelinskaya and top-ranked Marianne Vos of Holland.

Olds could barely hang on to keep up with the peloton, the main group of riders who chased the leaders through the rainy London streets on a cloud-filled Sunday afternoon. She finished seventh.

In the end, Zabelinskaya, Vos and Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead rode away from the pack and all that was left was the question of who would take the gold medal. It would be Great Britain’s first medal of the London Games.

Vos won gold in 3 hours, 35 minutes, 29 seconds, with Armitstead taking the silver in the same time. Zabelinskaya was two seconds back in third place.

Olds crossed in 3:35:56, the top finisher among four Americans.

"Bike racing has a lot of luck on its side," said U.S. rider Kristian Armstrong, who finished 35th. "It was particularly bad timing. First, there was the wheel change. Then it started dumping [rain]."

story continues below
story continues below

She added the Americans couldn’t regroup after Olds’ misfortune.

"It was very technical. We couldn’t get past anyone. We couldn’t see."

American Evelyn Stevens was 24th and Neben Amber placed 36th.

The 89-mile race — longest in Olympic history — started and finished on the expansive grounds of the Mall. The course cut through such fashionable London neighborhoods as Chelsea, Fulham and Kensington before doing a two-lap circuit of Bunker Hill.

Vos rolled to the starting line as one of the world’s most versatile cyclists.

She had won a world championship in road racing, cyclo-cross and track. The 25-year-old even had an Olympic gold medal — in points racing on the track.

The world’s No. 1-ranked rider came to London with 14 victories, including the overall title at the Giro Femminile this month.

Olds’ journey to the Olympics was not typical because it usually takes years to become a savvy road racer. She took up cycling when she moved to Gilroy with her family in 2007.

Olds graduated in 2003 from Roanoke College, where she was captain of the soccer team for two seasons. The cyclist landed in Gilroy when Sun Microsystems transferred her father to Silicon Valley. With a degree in health and human performance, Olds worked for medical clinics before focusing full time on cycling.

The 5-foot-2 rider started on the track, but when the International Olympic Committee eliminated one of her specialties, she switched to road racing in 2010.

It turned out Olds excelled in sprinting, which was perfect for the London course. She won the 2010 and ’11 national title in the criterium after winning consecutive track titles in 2008 and ’09.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.