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Interview: Rachel Neylan
By Bart Hazen
Date: 10/2/2012
Interview: Rachel Neylan

Interview: Rachel Neylan
Interview with Australian Rachel Neylan. The 30 year old ended her 2012 season on a high with the silver medal at the World Championships and a contract with the Norwegian Hitec Products team.

Rachel Neylan (Australia) took silver in the Road Race at the World Championships (Sept. 22) in Valkenburg last week. It was the first medal for Australia at a World Championship since Oenone Wood (Bronze) in 2005. We spoke to Rachel before she was leaving to Australia to catch up with family and friends after a very long season.

Last week Rachel Neylan made her debut at a World Championships with a silver medal. For her it was a crown on a good season, but she didn’t expected to get on the podium. “It is such an incredible feeling. I was so happy to be selected in the team and debut for Australia in a World Championships. I knew I was in good condition but I was very motivated to play my role and give 100% for our team goal or a podium result in the race.”

The Worlds podium with Vos, Neylan and Longo Borghini. Photo © 2012 Bart Hazen

Neylan thanked her silver medal to get in the decisive attack with Anna van der Breggen, Rossella Ratto, Amber Neben and Charlotte Becker which got away halfway the race. Later only World Champion Marianne Vos and Bronze medalist Elisa Longo Borghini bridged across. To go in the “early” break was planned. If the break would get caught it was up to team leader Tiffany Cromwell to give it a try. “Yes we always planned to have someone in every dangerous move with riders from those nations. I covered this attack but honestly didn't expect that it would stick, however the combination of riders was conducive to it staying away.”

Rachel started 2012 for the German Abus-Nutrixxion team. Unfortunately the team suffered some problems and felt apart in July. Due to that Rachel had to ride the last part of the season for several guest teams. One of them was the Norwegian team with DS Davy Wijnant. She is very grateful that he helped her out and gave her the confidence she needed. “I was impressed with his attitude towards his work and the girls performances. I valued good leadership and knew I would enjoy progressing further under positive and stimulating directorship – I still have a lot to learn!”

Besides it didn’t affect her motivation, in contrary it even made her stronger. “The current situation with women's cycling internationally is quite difficult with many low budget teams trying to run full UCI race programs. Everyone has their challenges and it's not easy for many women, I wasn't the only one with adverse circumstances. In saying that I am very proud to have overcome those difficulties this year.  I knew racing for a small UCI team, I would have to be ready for a tough year and be as smart, resourceful and opportunistic as I could with limited support. I've always been an honest hard worker and this was no different - I just put my head down and kept chipping away until the results came.

In a difficult time in women's cycling any racing in Europe is an opportunity and we are always learning. I am just happy to have finished the season on the biggest high of my career. The goal of wearing green and gold was always clear, i knew what I needed to do. There are people who have withstood greater adversity in life. Everything needs perspective.”

Rachel can't believe she won the silver medal at the Road World Championships in Valkenburg. Photo © 2012 Bart Hazen

Due to her strong performances in the last part of the season, especially her fourth place in the Tour de L’Ardeche and her second place at Worlds, she got herself a contract with the Norwegian Hitec Products UCK team of team manager Karl Lima. Neylan looks forward to work with them throughout the 2013 season. “Hitec Products is an organically grown team which I have a great deal of respect for. They are professional, consistent, have a solid race program and good directorship. These are all important elements for a successful team.”

Neylan and also another new signing Rossella Ratto will bring more climbing strength to the team of Karl Lima who had to rebuild and strengthen his team for 2013 after the departure of Emma Johansson. The ambitions of the team and Neylan are very clear. At Hitec Products we have a team ambition to be top three In the world. Smart teamwork gains results and hard racing provides opportunity in itself. I am happy to have a supporting role for Elisa (Longo Borghini) who has proven herself to be in a class league this season. The more riders in one team at the pointy end, the more opportunity you create for each other, its all positive”

But it wasn’t that obvious that Rachel would race for an European team in 2012. Thus far she had three major accidents in her career with the last one in September/October last year. “I fractured my jaw in 2010 from a high speed accident on the Passo di Stelvio, I than suffered  a fractured pelvis in the 2011 Giro Donne (July). I rehabbed fully to race the AGF Gran Fondo 8 weeks later but got hit by a vehicle in Adelaide 2 days later. This resulted in another pelvis fracture and put a dent in my October / November preparation which then had its implications (AIS non selection) and ultimately limited my 2012 international racing options.

I've been able to use my determination, perseverance and helpful knowledge of sports medicine through my professional  background to rehab in short time frames. This has meant I've not lost too much consistency. However 12 months without any major loss in training / racing consistency has proven to be the key!”

In the break of the day with Neben, Ratto, Van der Breggen and Becker. Later Vos and Longo Borghini bridged up. Photo © 2012 Bart Hazen

Neylan is with her 30 years of age still a relative newcomer in cycling. She started cycling 5 years ago through the NTID program after being an elite-runner and rower for many years. “The NTID program was my launch pad in 2008. I was tired of being on the other side of the fence - a sports physio helping other athletes to Green and Gold success. Experience in elite sport throughout my professional background gave me immense drive to take a huge risk, change my life as I knew it and begin peddling!

I wanted to find myself to a sport which i was optimally physiologically suited towards, and where I was going to be able to have gains by working hard. I had confidence in my ability to apply myself to goals especially with the hard physical training that cycling involves.

I just love the diversity of challenges that cycling performance requires - fitness, strength, power, psychology, skill and tactics etc. there's never one element you can rest and think you're on top of... It keeps you wanting to improve each facet. I also love the unique comradery among riders in the peloton when we're racing internationally

Mostly doing it all by herself Neylan traveled to the USA to join the ProMan team in 2009. Later that year she decided to travel to Europe to find a team to experience the European racing scene. Since than she had rides for Team System Data, Diadora Pasta Zara and Abus-Nutrixxion. Despite all the team changes and her adventures it never made her insecure about the unknown what was coming. No, I think I have had a reasonable progression from guest riding for Proman (Now Exergy) in 2009 to AGF Scholar in 2010 then 2011 on my first UCI team. I am proud of what i have achieved in the first five years and I am now ready to keep learning and improving for the next chapter.”

The late transition from elite runner to international cyclist was sparked by will, spirit and a few remarkable life changes in late 2007. But she never regret the steps she made and the path she has followed, although she would do some things different if she could do it again, to become a professional cyclist. She had sacrificed and still sacrifices a lot to chase her dreams. “Yes, sometimes doing things relying on pure dedication, persistence and passion breeds a work ethic you can’t learn anywhere. Support does help, however it does not have to be tangable, having key mentors to guide you and learn from is really important, something I have ensured from the beginning.”

Neylan will ride in 2013 for the Norwegian Hitec Products team. Photo © 2012 Bart Hazen

Neylan keeps repeating that she still has a lot to learn to achieve her next big goal (the next chapter as she mentions it) to compete for Australia at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Yes this has been a life long dream. Results change a lot, I now have the belief and support of a lot of people which is really vital when Olympics are concerned, the future is exciting with Rio very clear in my sights. Now I have signed with Hitec I can have a good race program, I can race in a positive and stimulating environment and most importantly continue learning. “ On short terms her goals for 2013 are the Australian National Championships and the World Championships in Italy.

To end the interview Rachel has a message for anyone thinking about getting into cycling and want to chase similar dreams as her.“Try to seek skills, use training to improve your confidence and always ride with smile.”

Or to use her motto: “Gutta cavat lapidem” – constant dripping wears away the stone, or persistence prevails in the end” .

For more information about Rachel Neylan and her adventures. Please visit her excellent webiste:


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