Culture

Day in the life: Tayler Wiles

A conversation with the Trek-Segafredo rider before she returns to Europe for the race season.

For the past two months, we have reached out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to get a glimpse into their lives during the shutdown in our Day in the Life series. Now, with a potential race season on the horizon, we’re asking about their fitness and forward planning.

Trek-Segafredo’s Tayler Wiles has spent the last three months at home in California, where measures to prevent the transmission of the novel coronavirus have been more strict than other parts of the United States. She and her wife, ex-pro Olivia Dillon, have remained relatively isolated from friends and family, taking advantage of empty roads in closed state parks and do-it-yourself gravel adventures in the hills outside of San Francisco. Now, with her team camp less than a month away, Wiles is faced with a whole new set of uncertainties, from travel to Europe, to being in group settings to safety protocols at the races.

Location: Fairfax, California

What’s your opinion on the tentative plans to bring racing back?
It’s such a tricky question, especially coming from the U.S., where I feel like we’re completely behind and people are like, ‘it’s over,’ and really it’s not. I came home from Europe during the second week of lockdown in Spain. It felt like coming back in time, no one social distancing. Now, it’s flip-flopped — Europe is ahead in their response. They had their strict quarantine which could never happen here. Now we’re much worse off than Europe.

It’s tricky because of course, I want racing to happen, I miss it, but at the same time, the thought of traveling and all of that is really stressful and is really scary.

I would like racing to go on, and I’m going about my training as if it is. We do have races on the calendar and the team is planning training camps. I’m doing my best to research how to travel and be safe and prepare myself for that whether or not I think it’s the best thing to be doing.

So, how does that ambiguity about returning to race play into your motivation to train?
Early on it was quite hard. I took a week off because I could tell that things were going to be difficult. The state of the world took all of my empathy. The state of bike racing wasn’t the first thing on my mind. It was more, ‘is my family OK? People are losing jobs,’ I was fully consumed by the state of the world.

It’s been a total roller coaster of emotions with ‘are we racing are we not?’ Thankfully, I love riding my bike, so I haven’t really found training that hard, and my coach has been great to make my training different. I’ve been doing a lot of dirt. The team gave me a gravel bike, and that type of riding has made me stronger in a way that I wasn’t before.

To be honest, I had all these teammates that were stuck inside, so I was grateful for every minute, and I tried to focus on that on days that I didn’t want to ride or when it was really overwhelming. I never get to spend the spring in California, so I’d go ride and see wildflowers and be incredibly grateful.

Ambiguity is tough for all athletes because we love a plan and to be told exactly what to do.

You recently raced in the Škoda V-Women’s Tour on Zwift. How was that?
Ugh. I feel like I was going as hard as I could but not quite hard enough, I guess. I guess there’s an art to it, and it’s just not my thing. Thankfully our directors are like, ‘it’s ok, we know you’re strong in real life.’

Tell me about some of your gravel adventures.
My wife and I had been doing some of Ted King’s DIY adventures. We had done Rasputitsa and BWR ourselves, around home. I thought Dirty Kanza would be insane. It’s not very hilly in Emporia, but it’s hilly here, so doing 200 miles would be insane. The team gave me a Checkpoint and said ‘we want you to do your own little adventure.’ We had to do some road but did a lot of dirt and did more than double the elevation that we needed to do. It took 15 hours, but it was amazing. We did a big loop and started and ended from home. We did tons of really awesome gravel roads and dirt roads, and when we were on pavement we were on HWY 1. It was really fun.

Taylor Wiles
Will the peloton lose Wiles to gravel? Time will tell. Photo: Courtesy Tayler Wiles

If professional road racing does resume this summer, when will you start racing?
They’ve just added some races in Spain, in the Basque country beginning the 21st of July. We’ll have team camp the week before.

I would probably travel, if they let me into the country, around July 12th. I was in the process of getting my Spanish residency, so we’re hoping that helps. If anything, Olivia is Irish and an EU citizen, so we’re hoping that might be helpful, too. 

But, every day our director messages me and it’s like, ‘this is what we’re looking like today and it will probably change tomorrow.’

What will that first start line look like?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Some will come out super strong and itching to race, and another group who have really struggled to maintain motivation, might be wary. There will be different types of nerves in the peloton because of everything. Being in a peloton during a global pandemic is also weird because normally everyone is spitting, snot rocketing. It’s a bit weird. In terms of fitness, where people are, where they are mentally, it’s going to be very different.

What race are you most excited for?
The Giro. It’s shortened, five days instead of 10, but it’s still there. There’s a team time trial which is a strong point for our team, so targeting that would be really cool as a team. The first WorldTour race is supposed to be Strade which is one of my favorites, but it might be a little stressful. It’s stressful in a normal year, but coming in not knowing where the heck your form is might be strange. But, it’s really beautiful so I’m excited.

Do you have any thoughts on whether participatory will resume in the U.S. this summer?
It’s hard to say. They rescheduled DK for September, but I can’t see the U.S. being clear for that. I just don’t really see racing happening in the U.S. to be honest, which is sad but I think that we’re way behind.

Wiles and her wife Olivia Dillon on a mid-ride re-fuel. Photo: Courtesy Tayler Wiles