Meet Amelia Tyler – The teenager who shocked everyone, including herself, by winning the green jersey at Rás na mBan

Teenager Amelia Tyler announced herself on the Irish cycling scene when she won the green jersey of best Irish rider at the five-day Rás na mBán in September, despite little racing experience.

hile she may not have spent much time racing a bike, Tyler was always sporty. She ran and swam and then took up triathlon after being spotted by Triathlon Ireland at a training day when she was 11 and joined the national junior academy.

“Actually, the cycling was my least favorite part of the sport when I was younger,” says the 19-year-old from Bangor. “I did Rás na nÓg once when I was younger but my mum wouldn’t let me race any more after that. She thought it was too scary. I came from a swimming background, swam from a young age and competed but I was never that great, never a natural swimmer. I just worked really hard. I stopped doing galas when I was around 15.”

Her love of cycling grew though when she began to go on long spins with her father, including a trip down through France last summer, where the duo loaded up with saddlebags and panniers on a father-daughter adventure.

“We left our house at 5.0am to cycle to Dublin to get the ferry to Cherbourg at 3.0pm,” she recalls of a rather dodgy start to the trip. “Not all of that time was spent in the saddle. We had to get a ferry halfway through, from Greencastle to Carlingford. It was kind of stressful because we had to make it by 3.0pm and then, on the route, there was a motorcycling race in Skerries, so we had to go further away.”

When I point out that Skerries isn’t really on the most direct route from Bangor to Dublin she laughs.

“Yeah, it wasn’t direct at all. It was really bad. We nearly missed it, but we made it to Cherbourg. We drew a line down France and rode about 100 miles a day to where our cousins ​​live in the south of France. We’ve done a few spins like that.

“When I was 16, my dad and I cycled from Bangor to Derry, along the coast, and we’ve also cycled from Bangor to Sligo. My dad really only got into cycling because I got into triathlon. We just enjoy doing long cycles together. Apart from the first day, the France trip was quite relaxing. It was a great trip.”

Having ridden a couple of races in the summer of 2021 as part of her triathlon training, a crash in the North Down Grand Prix last August left her off the bike for five months and did little to change her mother’s view of the sport.

“It was on the road I cycle on every day, five minutes from where I live,” she says. “I was in the A4 race and it was a big bunch. We were going up a little hill and I was on the inside, collecting a bottle from my dad. Two people in front of me touched wheels and I was directly behind them and had nowhere to go. I must have flown up in the air and hit the ground really hard, because I broke both arms and a collarbone. The good thing was my dad was there and he was able to look after me and drive me to hospital where I got sorted that day.

“I wasn’t on the bike at all until January. I was trying to get back to swimming because that was what was going to be most difficult, but my swimming had gone totally backwards and I wasn’t enjoying it. I decided there was no point in continuing triathlon. But I really enjoyed cycling and felt like I had decent potential in it, so I decided to switch over and just self-coached myself up until eight weeks ago. I didn’t do any races at the start of this year because I had my A levels, then I went to France and then I did maybe three races and was selected for Rás na mBan. I didn’t expect that at all but it all kicked off from there.”

She was used to rocking up on her own to races, but Tyler found herself on the Cycling Ulster team with team-mates, a manager and support crew for the first time.

“It was amazing,” she says. “Having a team is great. They were super supportive. Frank (Campbell) the manager was just brilliant. The team was really lovely. I really enjoyed it. It was tough but it was great.”

Having passed her A Levels, and due to start a biomedical science degree in Edinburgh University the day after the race, the drive to Kilkenny for her first ever stage race was an emotional one.

“The first day was a bit emotional because I was leaving home as well,” she laughs. “I remember crying on the way. I was also excited about the race. I didn’t know what to expect. I just wanted to complete it. I had no expectation at all. The notion of winning the green jersey hadn’t even crossed my mind because I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

“The first day was also my first time in a really big bunch and since my crash I was like ‘Oh this is scary!’ I was a bit nervous but really happy to finish and be in the front group as well. I was worried I’d be spat out the back in the first 10km but afterwards it was like ‘Oh, this is actually fine’.”

“On day two, I knew I could climb and was looking forward to seeing if I could stay with the front girls. I struggled a little bit on the first 3km climb but managed to stay in. On the next climb I was quite comfortable but the weather was atrocious and my back wheel slid a few times but I made it to the finish and was so happy. Then I realized I was best Irish rider and in the green jersey. I was in shock. It was amazing but then there was the pressure of being in the jersey and wanting to keep it, which I found really stressful. I was panicking about it but it was exciting.”

A crash on stage three left her unscathed and taught her another lesson.

“I was a bit shaken up but it was a good learning experience. I realized you can crash and not hurt yourself. I got back up but found it hard to find my legs again on the first long climb. On The Cut, I knew Caoimhe O’Brien was ahead of me. Frank in the car told me she was minute ahead so I completely went mad, killed myself up the climb and managed to hold onto the jersey, but that was a really tough day.”

Another day in the hills saw her retain the jersey on stage four before a venture into the unknown and her first ever time trial on the final morning.

“I was terrified because I’ve never done a time trial,’ she says. “I had no idea what to do. It was raining, so it was in my head ‘just to get around the course, don’t fall’. My coach, afterwards, looked at my heart rate and asked me ‘did you even try?’ I just wanted to make it around because I knew I wasn’t going to lose a minute on the short course.”

With her Ulster team-mates looking after her on the final stage criterium, Taylor went home with the green jersey, the equivalent of the best county rider classification in Rás Tailteann, while her Ulster squad also won the team prize.

“My parents came down to watch me and it was so nice. When I crossed the finish line, I was delighted to have done it but I didn’t get to go home and celebrate with my friends because an hour later we drove to get the ferry to Edinburgh. I was so sad leaving Ireland I cried my eyes out on the way here.”

Now settled into university, Tyler is on the college cycling team and has already raced in Scotland, helping Edinburgh university to team victory with second in the student hill climb championships and then taking fifth in the Scottish national hill climb championships last week.

“I really enjoy racing with the university. I love it. It’s a really good community. The team is really good and there’s lots of racing over here. It’s a bit annoying getting out of the city but it’s so beautiful when you get out in the countryside.”

Still new to the sport, Tyler wants to expand his horizons next year.

“I’d like to go race abroad. I’ve never been on the track before but I’d like to give that a go and cyclo-cross. I’ve done a lot of cross country running but I’ve only one bike here and, already, dealing with the mechanical issues on my own is quite difficult. I’ve been to the local bike shop a few times already,” she laughs.

“The university is really accommodating. I get special support in the gym and I think they’d be supportive of anything I need to do. Because I’m so new to the sport, I just want to gain more experience. I really love racing. I just want to see how far I can go in the sport really.”

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