The Santos Women's Tour opener on Saturday will be a special day for South Australian Carlee Taylor. The 27-year-old, who hails from Adelaide, hopes to impress on stage one when home and home-away-from-home collide as Taylor lines up alongside her Alé Cipollini teammates in front of friends and family.
"This is the only race that I get do at home," Taylor told Cyclingnews. "For me, it means a lot. My family doesn't get to come and watch me do my job for the whole year. This is the only time they can come out to cheer. It's special to ride on the roads you grew up on and trained on your whole life.
"I'm really looking forward to doing Tour Down Under," she added. "I know it's not the biggest race of the year, but it's one I really want to do well in."
Taylor has twice raced the Santos Women's Tour – both times before it was designed UCI 2.2. status in 2016 – but never with a European-registered trade team. In 2014, she raced with Orica-Scott (then Orica-AIS) and supported Dutchwoman Loes Gunnewijk to the win. The race was only three stages then and the field was mostly comprised of Australians. The following year she lined up as part of a composite squad pulled together solely for the stage race.
"Having Alé Cipollini come down this year and having Chloe Hosking, an Australian and a sprinter, in the team is huge," said Taylor. "It's a big thing for an Italian team to come to this part of the world. They're all really excited. We've been reminding them to bring power adapters, bathers. Hopefully they're prepared.
"I think it will be a good week, showing my team my home," Taylor added. "Usually it's the other way around in Europe the whole year."
Her excitement extends beyond the opportunity of welcoming her new team to Adelaide. Taylor has been vocal about her ambitions. She sees the two road stages of the Santos Women's Tour as her chance to shine.
"For the team a podium would be a goal," said Taylor. "Chloe, in the sprint stages, realistically she's one of the best sprinters in the world, and she has a shot at both criteriums, stages two and four. I want to take my chances on the road stages.
"Chloe and I both want to start the season well, and we're excited that Alé has given us the opportunity to do that," Taylor added. "They're giving us an opportunity to get a result at home and capitalise on the good form we got from Nationals and have trained hard to keep."
Taylor, a climber, sees stage one as her best shot to both win a stage and put herself in contention for the overall. She knows it's a tall order. The field assembled for the Santos Women's Tour is the strongest yet.
"I'm expecting stage one to be hard, but really, I'm expecting the whole tour to be hard – even the crits," said Taylor. "Every day will be aggressive and fast."
"Women's racing has progressed so much," Taylor noted. "I'm excited for my family, friends and community to see that. It's good for women's cycling, especially Australian women's cycling."