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The 2017 UCI road season officially kicks off in sunny Adelaide, Australia, this weekend with the Santos Women’s Tour. Summer racing in Australia is becoming an increasingly appealing way for riders to kick off the new season and test the legs. This year, the Santos Women’s Tour, a UCI 2.2 event, will have its biggest international presence yet with top-level teams like Canyon-SRAM, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, WiggleHigh5, Cylance Pro Cycling and Ale Cipollini Galassia all making the trek to the land down under.
Leaving winter in Northern California behind in favour of some warm weather, Tayler Wiles will once again kick off her season in Australia, albeit in a new kit this year. Formerly a member of the Orica-AIS squad, the 27-year-old will now be donning the bright blue of the American UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team which is making their Santos Women’s Tour debut.
In her own words, here is Wiles reporting from Adelaide a day before the battle for the blue Santos Women’s Tour leader’s jersey starts.
The first race of the year comes with all sorts of mixed emotions: excitement, nervousness, anticipation, uncertainty, and the pesky inner dialogue of “Do I actually remember how to race? Of course, of course I do…but wait, do I really?” Naturally, once the gun fires and the game is on, it comes back in a flash and the previous fear and anxiety is refocused and reframed into pure grit and determination.
I think we can all agree that we are pretty darn spoiled starting our seasons at a race like the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under. Besides the Aussies and Kiwis, most of our homes are either under piles of snow or being overwhelmed by cold, windy, flood-inducing rain storms. So jetting off to Australia, snapping photos in the sun and making all those souls hopelessly stuck in winter just a wee bit jealous, is a little slice of bike racing heaven. Personally, Australia is one of my all-time favourite countries to visit so having a UCI race here with a world class field is pretty incredible.
This year’s race will be a slightly new adventure for me as I changed teams from the lovely and endearingly Aussie Orica-AIS team last season to the American, coffee-loving blue crew that is the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team. You can read all about my team transitions here, but in short, the Orica girls and staff will always be like family to me so I was very excited to come back to Australia and catch up with them all. Thankfully ,I have found another family in my teammates and staff at UnitedHealthcare and was so stoked when our director announced that we’d be kicking off the season here at the Tour Down Under.
We arrived in Australia a few days ago, and have had some really great days to train, adjust to the time and temperature difference, and experience some truly authentic Australia moments like feeding kangaroos, holding pythons, spotting koalas sleeping in the Eucalyptus trees, waking up to magpie squawks, trying vegemite, and eating kangaroo burgers. No complaints by the coffee-loving blue crew either, we are all in heaven!
While being in Australia we have also adopted our new team motto “skux life!” Yeah yeah, I do realize that “skux” is actually kiwi slang, not aussie but with our team’s slight obsession with the movie “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” it just seemed the perfect fit – “Ricky Baker, ah-ah, Rickey Baker, ah-ah!”
Editor’s note: Don’t worry, I had to look that one up, too! Apparently it means “cool”, “gangsta”, “awesome” or “brilliant”.
If you haven’t seen that movie, drop what you are doing and watch it right now…seriously go!
Anyway, a few days ago we pre-rode the course for Stage One and phew, it’s a doozy! Up and down all day, slow pavement and some exposed sections that will definitely bring the elements into play. Plus, this year the race organisers have assembled a stacked field, which is going to create some seriously good racing. Our team is definitely looking for success in this race with the overarching goal of coming together as a team and starting the season off on a positive note.
OK, I realise that sounds like a stock answer, but I can’t give away all our secrets now can I? I can say that we recently had a team camp in Colombia and I got to see (and feel) just how strong my new teammates truly are. It was a painful but positive realisation that we are going to be a serious force in this race and throughout the year.
Introducing the blue crew:
We’ve got Rushlee [Buchanan] who just came off an historic fourth victory at the New Zealand Road National Championships, Katie Hall who I believe is soon to become one of the best climbers in the world, Ruth Winder who is one of those riders I am just SO happy (and relieved) is my teammate and not my opponent because she is literally good at everything, Lauren Hall who is one of the classiest riders both on and off the bike and whose savviness as a road captain is going to lead us to a great deal of success this season, and last but certainly not least, there’s our Australian power house of a sprinter, Lauretta Hanson! Now that is some serious fire power!
There you have it, my pre-race diary! Check back with me post-race for a recap of our adventures and how it all went down. Until then, from one coffee lovin blue crew to you, skux as!