• Carlee Taylor (Jean-Pierre Ronco)Source: Jean-Pierre Ronco
It was an emotional and fitting farewell for Carlee Taylor from the World Tour. A rider who brought a lot of joy to the women's racing scene, the peloton gave her a lap off the front of the race at the final stage of the Women's Tour Down Under.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
16 Jan 2018 - 8:06 AM 

The 27 year-old has been a consistent presence in the women's World Tour peloton for 10 years, starting out with a few races as a 19-year-old in 2008. She has been a journeywoman of the sport since, rarely staying with a team for long, but always getting picked up by a top-level squad when she became available.

That streak ends in 2018 with Taylor stepping back to local Australian racing with Holden Team Gusto. It's the prelude to a career elsewhere within the sport with a media career on the horizon. The decision came after a nasty crash in the early part of the year and a series of DNFs in the Ardennes classics.

"Yes, the rumours are true. I will be retiring from professional female cycling," Taylor tweeted at the end of October 2017. "This definitely hasn't been an easy decision for me, as cycling has been my life for pretty much my whole life.

"However, since my crash earlier this year I have been struggling a lot mentally. I never really got my confidence back, and was quite noticeably scared in the peloton. And when you know where you used to be, still train hard, and go to races that suit you only to constantly have your head that lets you down, it makes a sport that is already hard, even harder."

Her farewell from the peloton came at her home race, the Women's Tour Down Under, with local fans and friends calling out her name as she completed a lap of the central Adelaide circuit off the front of the race. Afterwards,  Taylor spoke to me about her final race against World Tour opposition.

"The girls wanted it to feel special for me today," said Taylor. "It was a honour for me that they let me get up the road today. It showed so much respect, that I didn't think I deserved, but they wanted it to happen.

"Being in front of friends and family here in Adelaide, people who have been part of your whole journey, it makes it feel more special. They saw me as a junior, progressing through the sport, when I didn't have any results to my name, too young to have sponsors. They've been part of this whole journey."

"I think the thing that makes cycling so special is the people that you meet. Some of the best memories of my life are with these girls, that's the best thing about cycling in my opinion."

On the side of the road watching was Taylor's best friend, former pro and Trek-Drop's Sports Director Loren Rowney. She reflected upon her own emotions at the retirement of one of her best friends.

"I didn't think I would cry today but when I saw her out there in front I cried," said Rowney. "My career ended a year ago, hers is ending now. It's like that period of our life is over. The years I lived in Girona with her were some of the best in my life, it's sad to close that chapter, but I know we'll be friends for life regardless."

Rowney was Taylor's partner in crime for much of her career and reflected on the impish, loud and fun-loving demeanour that Taylor displayed throughout her career.

"That's Carlee through and through," said Rowney, "together they were calling us double trouble. It's going to be a real loss not having her there because she brought this lightness to it all. It's a hard sport and humour made every situation seem good, even if it was shit."

Her fun-loving side is probably what Taylor will be remembered for most, with many in the women's peloton hanging on her antics on the startline and fans from afar following her social media posts with delight. Taylor described her famous pre-race antics with Rowney, a sight that will be missed from the peloton from now on.

"Every race we'd line up together and how we'd do our pre-race would be to just talk shit and be laughing at everything that we shouldn't have done," said Taylor. "Like sleeping in, not going to the toliet or our roommate not waking us up when the alarm went off.

"Often we'd have a crew listening in on our jokes and start laughing too, I think we became the two girls in the peloton known for that and we got a bit of a following. The girls in the peloton became like family and that's what made it so hard to say goodbye. The messages of support I've received, I just want to say thank you for all that and everyone who has been a part of this journey."

Taylor is scheduled to ride out her career in the 2018 National Road Series with Holden Team Gusto and is looking to move into a media role and continue her career within cycling.