DUKHAN, Qatar (VN) — Shelley Olds (Bigla) is starting the 2015 season with a bang in the Middle East by sprinting for bonus seconds and trying to win the overall in the Tour of Qatar
“Qatar is always a big goal of mine,” she told VeloNews on Tuesday.
“It’s a [UCI] 2.1-ranked stage race; it’s the first race of the season; it’s a race for sprinters. It’s a hard race with all the best teams. I’m trying to win the overall. I’d like to start the year off with something positive.”
Olds placed fifth behind winner Annalisa Cucinotta (Alé-Cipollini) in Dukhan, a small but oil-rich village on Qatar’s west coast, after 98.5 kilometers. Heading toward the finish line on the empty, wind-swept road, she placed herself on the heels of Alé-Cipollini’s train for the sprint. She accelerated too early and was unable to hold off her rivals.
The day had been positive overall explained Olds, who changed into a fresh jersey at the back of the silver car the organizer loaned the team for the four-day race. Earlier in the day, she won the first intermediate sprint over Chloe Hosking (Wiggle-Honda) and placed second in the second sprint behind a solo escapee to gain five seconds.
The bonus seconds gained through the stages will help determine the general classification, in which Olds sits third, especially if the wind does not blow hard across the peninsula as forecasted.
“You’ve got to pay attention every day and in every intermediate sprint,” Olds said.
“They name me as a favorite to win? Maybe it’s because I’m a sprinter, and it’s a race for sprinters.
“Last year, I had an unfortunate second day, and I was out of the GC already, but every other day, I was in the right place, placing second, fourth, and sixth in the stages. I would’ve been able to play for the GC had I not missed out that one day.”
Olds could win this time around. She said that she is sharper than before thanks to a 10-day training camp in Spain with her new Bigla teammates.
“The new team is a totally different level than anything I’ve been a part of before, a great team with great management, great staff, and the riders are all high-class riders,” Olds continued.
“We pushed each other a lot in training, and that helped my preparation for the Tour of Qatar.”
She divided her 2015 season into two blocks, the spring starting with the Tour of Qatar and the summer ending with the world championship road race in Richmond, Virginia. She finished sixth at 2014 worlds in Ponferrada, Spain.
“I want to keep this form going through the spring classics. The Tour of Qatar helps, absolutely. It’s a hard race when it’s windy, and there’s always wind. It helps getting that race speed and intensity you need in your legs before the spring classics. I want to be good in all of them through the Tour of Flanders.”