With her first Orica-AIS training camp done and dusted, Tayler Wiles is now back home in Fairfax, California training for her first season with the Australian team since moving across from Velocio-SRAM alongside Loren Rowney. The 26-year-old started the 2015 season by winning a stage and overall at the Women's Tour of New Zealand in February and closed out the year with another stage and overall victory combo in winning the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche. She then helped her USA teammate Megan Guarnier claim bronze on home soil at the Richmond Worlds in September.
Of her three season with the Velocio-SRAM squad, 2015 was far and away the most successful for Wiles with wins also coming at the Energiewacht Tour and US Women's Pro Challenge, while a bronze medal in the national road race was another highlight. Wiles is looking improve upon those results in 2016 with the Olympics her primary objective, both the road race and time trial, and explained to Cyclingnews that she was looking for team that would support that ambition. Orica-AIS met that criteria.
"I think they are really great in terms of confidence in me as a rider and giving me the opportunity," Wiles said in a phone interview with Cyclingnews. "Next year being an Olympic year, it's really important that I have a team behind me and support that goal of being selected and they have been so great with that and all the girls too. It's a super supportive environment and everyone is rooting for each other. The confidence the riders and staff have is pretty incredible and I think that's going to help with my success a lot for sure."
Wiles first met with the team and staff at its Italian base a few months back but it was during a week-long training camp in the Victorian Alps town of Bright last month that she was fully immersed with her new teammates and came away loving every minute of it.
"My teammate from the last three years, Loren Rowney, went over with me, which has been great as she’s been one of my teammates from the past couple of years and a really good friend so it's been nice to have her joining the team as well," she said. "The girls are just so easy to get on with and so much. I thought all the people in Australia were just the friendliest people."
During the camp Wiles got her "butt kicked" by her Australian teammates looking to peak early in the season for the national championships. The team was regularly joined by the sports directors Gene Bates and Marv Barrras on the training rides, a move that Wiles applauded, explaining "it's good to have your director see you on bike."
Orica-AIS' most successful rider of the last few seasons, Emma Johannson, left the team at the end of the 2015 season, creating an opening for one-day race and stage racing leadership. The team have announced it is looking to Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt to step up into that void next season, but in Wiles they have a rider hungry to assume a leadership role for 2016.
"I was looking for confidence in my abilities and I’ve wanted to step up and be a lead GC rider on a team. Orica offered that to me and wanted to sign me as one of the main stage racers and time trialists," she said. "Time trailing is really important to me and they are 100% behind me being the very best I can be in that discipline, and stage racing as well. That was something I was looking for, an opportunity to be a leader and the confidence in my ability to do that."
Looking to hit the ground running with Orica-AIS to secure an Olympic berth for Rio, Wiles will head back to Australia to make her debut with the team next month.
"It's a huge goal for sure and performing early in the season is going to be pretty important," she said of her Olympic ambition. "I am starting the season earlier than usual doing the Australian races with Orica, which will be good just from a fitness standpoint. I am really going to be focusing on time trialling and performing well in some of the spring classics I feel I do well in. I am not changing my preparation too much because in the past I've had a fairly good spring, just adapting little things and having more specific goals leading into the Olympics."
Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Fleche Wallone are the first two goals Wiles talks of for 2016, saying it would be "a dream" to win either race. But she isn't putting too much pressure on herself, reiterating that her goal for 2016 is Rio.
"I think going into an Olympic year people can crack just because every single detail and every single race seems so important. In the end you’re still growing and learning and you have to enjoy what you’re doing. I am going to try and keep the fun the sport while still be really focused and driven."
While Rio is her focus for 2016, Wiles has objectives for later in the season and after a "really special" home Worlds is targeting the Doha championships in late-October.
"I want to target the time trial for sure. It is late and makes the season really long, which means you have to take maybe two breaks rather than just one. The Worlds time trial next year is a big goal for me."
As much as Wiles has highlighted specific goals for 2016, progression and development as a cyclist are equally important.
"I really want to step up my racing, podium in a WorldTour race or win a WorldTour race and become a bit more of a leader. And of course Olympic selection is huge," she said of what would make a successful season. "Being a part of Orica is going to be incredible because of the way they race and give everybody and opportunity and the race super aggressive which is similar to my style. I've won some stage races but I want to win some bigger races."