“Nobody cares about fourth place”: Tayler Wiles’ heartbreak during Thüringen Rundfahrt stage two

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Tayler Wiles (Velocio-SRAM) is on double duty for Ella CyclingTips during Thüringen Rundfahrt this week. The American is (wo)manning our Ella Instagram account with a #TaylerTakeover and reporting in for a rider diary following each stage of the German Tour.

Tayler rides for a German-registered squad with a largely German staff and three German riders. For more than half her team on the ground, Thüringen Rundfahrt is a home tour – a home tour that they are keen to win. The team started the race brilliantly with Lisa Brennauer sprinting to victory on stage one and pulling on the yellow jersey.

Tayler and her Velocio-SRAM teammates had every intention to defend that yellow jersey on Saturday’s stage two. It didn’t need to stay on Lisa’s back, but it needed to stay within the team. And Tayler was in a position to make that happen, until…

Five kilometres from the finish in Erfurt, Tayler had put herself in a race-winning position. Having initiated the break of the day at the mid-point of the 103.3km stage, Tayler attacked the escape group at 10km and immediately opened up a gap. Head down and legs furiously pedalling, she was single-mindedly focused on maintaining her advantage, winning the stage and moving into the yellow jersey.

Just beyond the five kilometre mark, Tayler was led off-course by a police moto. By the time she had gotten back on course, the stage win was up the road.

Unaware that Tayler was no longer ahead, Eugenia Bujak (BTC City Ljubljana) did not celebrate when she crossed the line. She thought she had been racing for second place. Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) and Pauline Brzezna sprinted in for the minor spots on the podium. Tayler was forced to settle for fourth.

“Nobody cares about fourth place,” she said when she called for her daily check-in. “Nobody cares about anything except winning.”

Tayler’s summary of the race action

Thuringen - Rundfahrt for women stage - 2

Today’s course was one big loop of 92km before we crossed the start/finish line for a smaller 11km loop. There were a few climbs on the large loop – all fairly gradual and none longer than 2km. There was a more significant climb on the start of the little loop. The peloton as a whole, but especially the Australian riders, were riding in memory of Amy Gillett, who was killed while training with the Australian National Team in Germany 10 years ago today.

The beginning of the race wasn’t very remarkable. There were a few attacks but nothing that really went anywhere. It was windy today, and I think people were a bit shy to attack into the big winds.

When we went over the first classified climb, my teammate Elise [Delzenne] sprinted for the points again. She got her points and kept the jersey – which ended up being the most significant result of the day.

There were a few more rollers and then we hit an unclassified climb that probably should have been a classified climb. I was feeling really good up that climb, so I attacked over the top. We had just passed the 50 kilometre mark, so this was more or less half-way into the race. I immediately got a big gap, and not too long later some other girls bridged across. We ended up with a group of eight.

At first everyone was rolling through – including me. I wanted to get things going, but when I took my pulls I definitely wasn’t going full gas. I wanted to help open the gap, but at the same time, I wanted to keep the gap small enough that my teammates could still control the move from the peloton.

When the gap got out to around a minute, that’s when I started to sit on. With a teammate in yellow, no one in the move expected that I would continue to work. By that point, cars had been allowed up the break, so my director came up to me, and he confirmed that I had absolutely made the right decision. He told me to sit in and then go for the stage win toward the end.

I waited it out as patiently as I could. My plan was to attack on that climb just beyond the start/finish line. I did attack there, as planned, but I wasn’t really getting any sort of space, so when we went over the top, I bombed it down the tricky descent with cobbles, and that’s how I got my gap.

I put my head down and committed fully to the move. A moto came up next to me and showed me that I had 15 seconds over a single chaser and that the rest of the break was at 25 seconds. I knew that I just had to hold that advantage and time trial to the finish for the win.

Right after I saw the five kilometre sign, I went up a little overpass, and I came to this intersection where all the race cars and motos were stopped. I was yelling: “Where do I go? Where do I go? Where to I go?” No one answered me.

The entire course was marked with orange arrows, so I frantically searched for orange arrows. There were no orange arrows. I had no idea what to do or why no one was telling me where I needed to go. Finally, a police moto came, and it went straight through the intersection, so I followed the police moto. It seemed like the most logical option.

This took me completely off-course. I realised the mistake immediately because we went down an off-ramp, and I had already been there previously. We had to backtrack, and I ended up doing an extra two kilometres. By then, Eugenia and the group of riders that were chasing Eugenia were now in front of me. There were three kilometres left. They had 20 seconds. I could see them in front of me, but there wasn’t enough time left to close the gap.

And that was that. It was completely devastating.

When riders are led astray

This isn’t the first time this year that a rider or group of riders have been led off-course. Just last month, a breakaway of four riders were misdirected on the first stage of Euskal Emakumeen Bira. In that instance, the race jury made the decision to neutralise the race and then restart with the time gaps that had existed before the breakaway had gone off-course.

It’s all arbitrary and there aren’t really any set rules. Yes, it’s the riders responsibility to know the course, but with a course like this one, it’s practically impossible. If you count up the corners on this course in the technical guide, there would be over 100 turns.

Maybe if it had been earlier in the race, they would have stopped the peloton, stopped the break, stopped the chaser and given me my gap back. They knew exactly what it was because they had shown it to me right before they took me off the course. Maybe they didn’t because there were only five kilometres left.

The emotional aftermath

Thuringen - Rundfahrt for women stage - 2

It was a huge disappointment. These days don’t come very often for me. I work really, really hard for my team, and I take a lot of pride in that. It’s important to me to be a good teammate, and I love helping the team win. At the same time, I like to win, and the team likes to see everyone on the team win a race. We’re not a team that supports just one or two riders. Look at our results, and you’ll see that almost everyone on the team has won a race this year. That’s something unique to our team, I think.

All year, I’ve been a really good teammate and played an important role in some big wins for the team. Today our director gave us the chance to take our own opportunities and make our own destiny, and that’s a chance for us workers to try to shine. Up until that point, I had raced the perfect race.

I initiated the break. I didn’t do too much work in the break. I attacked at the right time. I got away solo, which was what my director wanted. I did everything right. Today was my day – and then it just wasn’t.

Race wins are so few and far between that when things like this happen, it’s actually really painful. We’re in a sport where you win .001 percent of the time.

Let’s just say I cried a lot.

The tangible impact

For me, worlds selection [for the UCI World Championships in Richmond, Virginia] is still up in the air. Anytime I can get UCI points or prove that I’m a rider capable of winning, it’s just so important. The stage win today would have been huge. It would have been a stage win, and the yellow jersey.

Beyond the personal impact, my win today would have meant the race leader’s jersey stayed within the team. Losing that jersey is also a disappointment, especially losing it the way we lost it.

Moving beyond the disappointment

I have to give Eugenia credit. She was super sweet to me while I was crying at the podium when I got the jersey for Most Active rider. She told me: “You won today. Today was your win. It was just a mistake made by the race.” Everyone has been really supportive, so that helps, too. The girls in the peloton are all incredible that way, and I know my teammates are nearly as crushed as I am.

I talked to my girlfriend Olivia, and I cried some more. I’ll talk to my family – and then that needs to be the end of it. I have to put it away and focus forward.

Double day upcoming

Thüringen Rundfahrt continues on Sunday with a double day – an individual time trial in the morning (19km) and an abbreviated road stage in the afternoon (78.8km).

Double days are incredibly hard mentally. You put everything you have into one stage, and then the stage is over and you’re like: “Shit. I have to do another one in a few hours.” You have to be really mentally tough to get through a double day.

I’ve heard that the time trial is tricky. It’s technical. And the road stage – apparently it includes a really steep cobbled climb. It’s not going to be an easy stage even if it’s short. Tomorrow’s stages will definitely shake up the general classification. Luckily, there are some super strong time triallists on my team, so hopefully tomorrow will be a good day for us.

Follow Tayler Wiles and Velocio-SRAM from Thüringen Rundfahrt:

Follow Thüringen Rundfahrt

Thüringen Rundfahrt garners less media attention than Giro Rosa or Aviva Women’s Tour, so it isn’t quite as easy for women’s cycling fans to follow this race as the last two stage races we’ve covered. Here are the resources we have so far – and we’ll add to this section on subsequent days as we know more.

Bigla seems to be the only team tweeting live race updates. Bigla’s tweets don’t focus exclusively on Bigla riders, which makes them a fantastic resource. Kelvin Rundle is on the ground and shared a few videos and images throughout the race. Sean Robinson of Velofocus is on location, and we’re looking forward to perusing his photo galleries nightly. Here’s his stage two gallery.

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