It’s lonely at the top – just ask Shelley Olds.
The 34-year-old cyclist from Gilroy, Calif. – riding without a single teammate in the field – captured a Tour de White Rock Road Race title Saturday afternoon, outsprinting Sara Bergen to the finish line of the 80-km race after the pair broke away from the chase group with a few laps to go.
The win capped an incredible week for Olds, who came to BC Superweek solo, fought off much larger teams – whose riders work together to fend off competition – and resulted in eight podium finishes and three victories – including both events in White Rock.
In addition to her road-race win Saturday, she claimed victory at Friday evening’s criterium in uptown White Rock, while Alberta’s Alison Jackson was second and Elgin Park Secondary alum, Justine Clift, was third.
On Saturday, Olds not only had to keep pace with Bergen and her Trek Red Truck Racing teammates – there were seven riders, in all – but also had to do so while battling temperatures that, by early afternoon, had reached 30 C.
Every time another rider made a move, Olds had no choice but to dig deep and stay with the lead pack, as opposed to staying behind to conserve energy.
“I knew I couldn’t let anything go – I had to try to cover everything,” she said. “And sometimes, the best defence is a good offence, so when I saw there was just one rider off the front and there wasn’t a big interest to chase, I decided it was time to go. It was now or never, so I jumped across (and into the lead).”
For her part, Bergen said her game plan was to break from the pack early, and try to tire Olds out by the final laps.
“With Shelley in the field and riding so strongly, we definitely had to make some moves to make it hard on her,” said Bergen, who rode the final stretch of Marine Drive on a flat tire.
“I pretty much took all the hills as hard as I could… (but) Shelley’s a strong lady so that didn’t go too well for me. She’s a strong sprinter and I did what I could.”
Montreal’s Lex Albrecht – who was second in the road race in 2013 and also won the overall omnium points title – placed third Saturday.
With eight podium finishes in her back pocket, Olds now turns her attention to Paris – her next race is La Course by Le Tour de France; a one-day race that’s part of the famous Tour and ends at the Champs-Elysees. She finished fifth at the event last year, and this year, summed up her goals in one word: “Podium.”
While the winner of the women’s road race came down to a two-rider sprint, the 130-km men’s event was slightly less dramatic.
Wolfville, N.S. cyclist Garret McLeod, who rides for H&R Block Pro Cycling, captured the road-race title with relative ease, pulling away from the lead group when the race switched from the 10.1-km long course to the short circuit; when he crossed the finish line on Marine Drive, only a few riders were visible at the bottom of the hill, near the corner of Victoria Avenue and Marine.
With only a few laps to go, McLeod and teammate Adam de Vos – who ended up third, losing a photo-finish for second with Francisco Mancebo – took turns pulling away from the field, and McLeod eventually pulled away for good.
“I wasn’t super confident that I was going to stay away, but I knew if I came back (to the pack), that Adam (would go) so it was perfect for the team,” McLeod said after the victory. “The team rode great today.”
Mancebo, a 39-year-old Spaniard and veteran of the European racing scene – he finished fifth at the Tour de France in 2004 – admitted it was tough to keep pace with bigger teams like H&R Block and Silber Pro Cycling – which had 10 and eight riders, respectively. He was thrilled to finish on the podium, nonetheless.
“The H&R guys attacked one time, then another time, and finally Garrett went alone and I stayed behind. With second place, I’m really happy.”
Friday’s men’s criterium was won by Ottawa’s Matteo Dal-Cin, edging Germany’s Florenz Knauer for the title. Dal-Cin won the road race at last year’s Tour de White Rock.