A mainstay in the elite women's peloton for almost a decade, Tayler Wiles has called on race organisers to bring high-level events back to the United States to arrest the struggling decline in road race participation among young athletes.
In the past five years, gravel racing has boomed in the States as road racing has lost its place as the pre-eminent discipline in the country.
The Tour of California, Philadelphia Cycling Classic, and Tour of the Gila are just three races that have fallen off the calendar, and there is a paucity of young female road riders making their way in the sport.
Female American riders are the strongest in the burgeoning global gravel scene, but by and large they come to the discipline from a road background.
While the continued success of criteriums, aided enormously by the Legion cycling team, is a source of hope, Trek-Segafredo’s Wiles told Cycling Weekly of the pain she feels when assessing the state of road cycling in her home country.
“Unfortunately, road cycling in the US has taken a bit of a dive,” the 32-year-old said. “It had started to happen before Covid that there was less and less racing, but now there’s almost nothing.
“The criterium scene is great, and the gravel scene is making waves and will get ever more exciting, but we really need to see road racing make a comeback.
“We need stage races, one-day races, like we used to have. I think it would be really helpful if the WorldTour brought back a stage race into the States.
“We could have amateur races running off the back of it, races for category one, two, three and four riders alongside it.
“It has to build from either the top or the bottom, but it has to start somewhere. Sponsorship is often the limiting factor, and it’s really difficult to get roads closed in the US, but something needs to be done.”
Wiles - who won the 2017 Tour of the Gila and finished second on GC at the following year's Tour of California - listed Chloé Dygert, the former world time trial champion, and Megan Jastrab, the 2019 junior road race world champion, as two riders who point towards a successful American future at the elite end of women’s cycling.
But she added: “I wish I could think of more. I wish there was more young girls coming up. The amount of new and young female road riders has dwindled. It’s hit a brick wall.
“The girls who are crushing it in gravel are of an older generation, they’re in their 20s, have full-time jobs, and most came from the road.
“Going into the junior categories, I can barely think of any names and that makes me so sad. This country is massive and I think USA Cycling hasn’t supported the development of riders like it has in the past.”
Wiles contrasted the picture with that of what she witness in Europe. “Over there women’s cycling is blossoming,” she added. “There is so much momentum behind it.
“I wish I could help with the situation here but I spend most of my time in Europe. When I am home, I notice that gravel is the way, but it’s a different kind of sport. It’s not the same as road racing.”
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