by Tayler Wiles
Merco was the first race with my new team (Specialized-lululemon) and it was a pretty incredible start. I was really happy to see the women’s 4-day stage race return with the MID road race as stage 1. Two years ago, this was my very first race as a professional. This year, I was able to cross the finish line 1st, with teammate Evelyn Stevens taking 2nd, and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had racing my bike.
We wanted to get Evie and I in a break, which happened on lap 2 as Alison Powers went hard up the climb to get the QOM points and caused a split. We got a break of 6 rolling with Evie, Andrea Dvorak, Alison Powers, Lauren Hall, and me. The last time up the climb, Evie attacked and got a good gap. Powers chased her and I just sat tight on her wheel. After the descent, I looked back and noticed it was just Powers and me. We’d lost the rest of the girls in the break. I sat on Powers until we were about 30 feet from Evie, and then I attacked Powers on a small kicker and bridged to Evie. Then came the fun part, as the two of us time trialed to the finish.
It’s not often that you are off the front with only a teammate, so we made the most of it, masterfully planning our post-up…or so we thought! We had planned to do hand signs with an S and an L (for Specialized-lululemon, of course!), but we forgot that the photos would be the mirror image. Whoops! Even still, it became one of my favorite days spent on the bike.
Finishing stage one in yellow was amazing and we were very confident we could keep it with the team throughout the race Evelyn Stevens is one of the best time trialists in the world and I was happy to pass the yellow on to her after an awesome time trial.
Next up was the downtown criterium, which is always a good time. You can’t beat the speed, sounds, crowds, and atmosphere of crit racing; especially with Dave Towle at the mic. Ina rode brilliantly as always, attacking at the perfect moment early in the race and forming a breakaway that would stay to the finish. With amazing teammate Ally Stacher in the break with her, the legend-that-is-Tuete took the sprint and won the Merco Crit yet again. Evie and I were able to sit in, conserve energy, and stay safe in the race. It was another perfect day for the team.
We were 3 for 3 going into stage 4, with the yellow and best young rider jerseys in our possession, and we were excited to see how the race would play out over the three circuit road course. NOW and Novartis for MS was active, shooting girls off early and often, forming an early break that was eventually brought back by Optum riders and Ina. As soon as the break was back, teams continued to fire off riders and, just before the final circuit a break of three (Ali Tetrick, Beth Newell, and Lauren) with the eventual top two finishers of the day got away. After helping her teammate Beth, Lauren dropped from the break and Ali and Beth came to the line with Beth winning the drag race to the finish. All the teams in the race rode brilliantly and we ended the four day race on a great note.
As a team, we couldn’t have asked for much better with Evie winning the overall, me taking third in GC and the best young rider jersey, and the team taking three stage wins. It was an amazing start to the season and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.
I want to give a big thanks to everyone involved in making the Merco Cycling Classic a reality. It’s an incredible race to be a part of and I hope it continues for years to come. I also wanted to send a big thanks to all of the media and photographers who give coverage to women’s racing; it means so much to us. And last, but not least, a thank you to Dave Towle for being the best in the business and making us all feel like rock stars!