Wearing the green and gold of the Australian national team has always been a driving ambition for Rachel Neylan. Almost four years on from her silver medal at the Valkenberg Worlds, Neylan’s dream of representing her country at the Olympic Games is close to becoming reality.
Neylan’s cycling career has included several hurdles since taking up the sport in late 2007 but since joining the Orica-AIS squad in March last year, the 34-year-old has put together a solid 18-months of racing. Overall victory at the 2015 Trophée d’Or Féminin, podiums at the Australian nationals and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, 15th at La Flèche Wallonne Féminine and most recently, victory in the Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan Dames has strengthened her position as one of the top Australians in the women’s professional peloton.
An invitation to join a Cycling Australia reconnaissance of the Rio Olympics road race course last month did her selection chances no harm and provided greater insight into what Neylan would face should she be one of four Australian riders to be selected.
“I felt really fortunate to have the opportunity with Cycling Australia to do a very thorough recon of the course with Kevin Tabotta, Brad McGee and Marv [Martin Barras]. I came away from it with a lot of valuable information about the physical aspects of the course and also feeling what Rio is like as a city and the other challenges that will surround the Olympic Games,” Neylan told Cyclingnews of her first impressions of the course.
“The other unique thing is that it’s long at 140km, which is something that excites me. I like long courses which lend themselves to endurance. It’s definitely been a huge asset having seen the course.”
Compared to the parcours from London (2012), Beijing (2008) or Athens (2004), Rio has been described as a challenging and tough course suited for climbers. With climbing one of her strengths, Neylan could find herself in a protected position in the Australian team but explained as the race will be unlike anything else on the calendar, going in with a single leader could well backfire.
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