Tayler Wiles’s journey back to the European peloton began in the middle of a training ride in Breckenridge, Colorado last August.
Having raced abroad for much of her career, Wiles, 28, spent 2017 racing with U.S.-based team UnitedHealthcare. Wiles enjoyed the experience, yet she was eager to return to the women’s WorldTour peloton.
During that summer ride, Wiles took a call from Bob Varney, one of the co-owners of British squad Team Drops. At first, Wiles wasn’t sure if this two-year-old team would be the right fit — she had other team options for 2018. However, Varney made a convincing pitch, and Wiles agreed. Now, with bicycle manufacturer Trek aboard as a co-title sponsor, Wiles has become one of the new stars of the Trek-Drops squad for this coming season.
“I felt like I could trust him,” Wiles says. “I went into the conversation not thinking it was an option. After talking to him I just couldn’t get it out of my head.”
Wiles turned heads in 2017, grabbing some of the best results of her career with UnitedHealthcare. She split leadership duties with the team’s rising star, Katie Hall. In April Wiles won three stages and the overall at New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila. Wiles kept the success going through the summer, winning mountains classification and finishing second overall at the Tour de Feminin in the Czech Republic, and then taking the mountains classification at the Thuringen Ladies Tour in Germany.
Wiles made the most of her year with the U.S.-based team, despite feeling a bit disappointed to move away from a European program. “In the end, it turned out to be a very good move for me. I got a lot of confidence back from it,” Wiles said.
UHC is committed to racing in the United States but makes regular forays to Europe for UCI Women’s WorldTour events. Wiles said she is eager for more racing abroad.
“I had a really great season with UHC,” she adds. “I really liked the team. But going to Europe full-time wasn’t going to be an option while racing for that team.
Wiles already has a long history of racing in the women’s European peloton. She raced for Orica-AIS in 2016 and was with Specialized-Lululemon for three seasons prior to that. She made her European debut in 2013 as a neo-pro with Specialized-Lululemon. Wiles said that first year helped her gain experience and mentorship at an important stage in her career. She raced alongside veterans Ellen Van Dijk, Lisa Brennauer, Ina Yoko Teutenberg, and Evelyn Stevens.
“I always say I kind of got my dream team really early,” Wiles said. “The girls on that team were all the girls I really looked up to.”
Varney said they finalized the deal in September during the Boels Ladies Tour in the Netherlands. In order to meet with Wiles, Varney had to drive overnight from the Eurobike trade show in southern Germany. The two agreed over breakfast, he said.
“Zero stress dealing with Tayler,” Varney says. “As the meeting came to a close I said, ‘So, we have a deal?’ She said, ‘Yes, we have a deal.’ We had a hug and the deal was done.”
On the drive back, Varney was ecstatic to have landed a rider who will take on a leadership role on his up-and-coming team. Drops’s results were modest in 2017 — the team finished 17th (of 36 teams) in the women’s WorldTour standings, two spots behind UHC. It’s top-ranked rider, Alice Barnes, was 37th in the individual WWT standings. Martina Ritter scored national championship victories in Austria for both the road race and the individual time trial.
The team’s top rider from 2017, Ann-Sophie Duyck of Belgium, is headed to Cervelo-Bigla for 2018.
Wiles brings a veteran’s experience to the young squad. At 28, she is the oldest rider on the roster. Wiles is eager to share her experience, joking that now she’s the “old lady” on the team.
“I told a couple of them just have patience,” she said. “They’re super-eager and have really big goals which is great. I did have people telling me to be patient, but I never was.”
With a full European campaign in the works, Wiles will focus on the hilly Ardennes classics in the first half of the season. “Fleche has always been one of my favorite races,” she said. Wiles has yet to participate in the Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, however, the hilly, punchy terrain at both events suits her skills. Wiles also hopes Trek-Drops will gain entry into women’s cycling’s biggest stage race, Italy’s Giro Rosa.
Trek-Drops 2018 roster
Eva Buurman (Nl)
Anna Christian (GB)
Lizzie Holden (GB)
Kathrin Hammes (G)
Manon Lloyd (GB)
Annasley Park (GB)
Abby-Mae Parkinson (GB)
Hannah Payton (GB)
Lucy Shaw (GB)
Annie Simpson (GB)
Abi van Twisk (GB)
Molly Weaver (GB)
Tayler Wiles (US)