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U.S. women’s team disappointed despite Shelly Olds’ top-10 finish

Shelly Olds finishes a career-best sixth on the day, but the U.S. women had hoped to do better with a sprint in the offing

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PONFERRADA, Spain (VN) — The U.S. women’s team left the UCI World Road Championships on Saturday with mixed emotions after failing to win a medal but taking an important sixth place result for Shelley Olds.

“I’m very sad,” Olds told VeloNews. “I was in a position to win or at least podium, so to finish out of the top five is disappointing, but when you look at the big picture, it was my best worlds performance. I tried all day to be in good position, to be in the front. I did a good job up until the last sprint.”

Olds sprinted with a small group of 15 riders after she and teammate Evelyn Stevens flew down the final descent to catch an escape with 2013 winner Marianne Vos (Netherlands), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain) and Emma Johansson (Sweden).

France’s Pauline Ferrand-Prevot zipped passed a fading Vos for the rainbow jersey, Lisa Brennauer (Germany) and Johansson held for silver and bronze, and Olds, who counts several sprint wins in her career, had to settle for sixth.

“On the last climb, I was a little bit dropped, but I was not so panicked because I’d seen the races before this week and saw that things were coming back,” said Olds.

“I had some faith that they’d play cat-and-mouse at the front. No one wants to take the initiative when there are so many winners in the group. I was patient and when we were at 1.5 kilometers to go, I saw they were there and it was sprint for the rainbow jersey.”

Olds was lucky to be in the rainbow sprint after 127.4km, with the last ones under scattered showers. A large crash caused four Americans to crash and forced Mara Abbott and Tayler Wiles to abandon. Alison Powers, with ripped shorts, fought ahead for her teammates with an attack at two laps to go. Stevens tried on the climb out of town on the penultimate and last laps, which weakened the teams and sent several riders out the back of the group.

“We had a game plan that we wanted to keep it fast, but I’m a little disappointed that she was attacking because for me it was clear that it could be a sprint,” Olds said.

“I wish she would have stayed with me so maybe we wouldn’t have been chasing and we would’ve already been there for the sprint.”

Olds added that with Abbott the team could have had a better chance.

“Shelly was good,” Stevens said. “We got gapped by the four ahead the final time up and over the climb, but I just chased trying to get Shelly back on.

“I was surprised the four didn’t keep going, I didn’t understand that at all. It was good for us, though. Shelly got in the sprint and took sixth, but it wasn’t our best day.”