Tayler Wiles is obsessed with the Olympic Games.
Growing up in Salt Lake, Utah, she watched the Winter Games first-hand when it came to town in 2002, and took in every piece of competition she could.
It’s no different when she watches it on the television, absorbing all of the action available.
“I got to go to all of the events,” Wiles told VeloNews. “I loved it and I was obsessed with the athletes and following along. I’ve always watched the Summer and the Winter Olympics. I always buy the NBC sports package to watch every single event. I just love it.
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“It’s really cool to watch athletes perform at the top level. To see the emotion that goes into it is pretty incredible and inspiring. I think everybody loves the Olympics. I think this year will be really cool after what the world has gone through. It’s going to be hopefully a unifying feeling for everybody watching the Olympics.”
Wiles has always been passionate about sport, whether it be watching it or competing in it, and going to the Olympic Games as an athlete would be the pinnacle of that. She is one of nine riders on USA Cycling’s long team for Tokyo, which will be whittled down to four next month.
“I grew up as a soccer player and I wanted to be like Mia Hamm but, unfortunately, I wasn’t quite a good enough soccer player to be professional, but I’ve always been obsessed with athletics and obsessed with striving to be your best at something,” Wiles said. “When I found cycling my dream came alive in this sport. To me, going to the Olympics would mean everything. It would be a childhood dream come true, for sure.”
Second time lucky
The delayed Tokyo Games is Wiles’ second shot at becoming an Olympic athlete after she made the long team for Rio 2016. She missed out on that occasion, but she had no expectation of going and bears no ill-will towards the selectors.
“At the time, there was Evelyn Stevens, Megan Guarnier, Mara Abbott, and Kristin Armstrong and all of those girls were winning. Kristin had the TT wrapped up because she’s won so many medals before, so we knew she was going to get that spot and Evie deserved that second TT spot,” Wiles said.
“The road race spots went to Mara and Megan, who both deserved the spots that they got because they were winning WorldTour races against the top cyclists in the world. While I was honored the be on the long list at the time I definitely didn’t deserve a spot. I wasn’t disappointed.”
Nearly five years later, Wiles is much less resigned about earning a rarefied spot on the USA’s cycling delegation. The 31-year-old has taken a step forward in her development as a rider since missing out on that Rio spot and won her first WorldTour stage at the Emekumeen Bira in 2019.
She has also formed part of the backbone of the formidable Trek-Segafredo team, alongside fellow USA Olympic hopeful Ruth Winder.
“I’m more experienced and I have more race wins [since 2016]. I got my first WorldTour win in 2019 and I think that was a big step and a big result,” she told VeloNews. “I won in a race where there were some of the best riders in the world so I think I proved a little bit that I can win races at the top level.
“I’ve had the opportunity to race with former world and Olympic medallists. Part of the criteria is athletes that enhance team performance. While you have to have to be medal capable as well, they also have to look at riders who can maximize the team performance and enhance the medal capabilities of the entire team. I think I check both of those boxes.”
As an Olympic obsessive, it will be a little disappointing that she won’t get to live the full experience of the games — if she does get selected — due to the restrictions in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Wiles won’t let that take the shine off it and she’s still excited about the chance to compete at an Olympic Games.
“It’s sad that it will be [in] COVID times because I always dreamed of the opening and closing ceremonies and staying in the village and getting to know athletes from all different sports,” Wiles said. “If it was a normal time, I would definitely stay in the village for the entirety of the Olympics to meet all of the athletes and to experience that.
“I think it will be different with COVID. They kind of get you in and out, and our hotel isn’t in the village so it’s going to be different for sure, but it will still be pretty amazing.”