Hitec Products UCK bring depth and talented squad to Ardennes classic
World Championship silver medallist Rachel Neylan (Hitec Products UCK) is steadily working her way into the season after a disrupted start to what she had hoped to have been one of the biggest years of her career.
La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday however, is cause for a smile to return to the Australian's face.
"I'm excited," Neylan told Cyclingnews at the team presentation in Huy on Tuesday buoyed by the memory of her 2010 debut when she was riding for the national team. "On a good day I've got the capacity to be up there - I like steep climbs. I love this race and I think it's going to be really aggressive and really hard."
Following her top-10 performance at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships, Neylan embraced the European winter and a tough training camp having signed on with the Norwegian-based Hitec outfit. Perhaps it was too much too soon, but a knee injury eventuated and it's meant that Neylan has raced just a handful of times this season.
"I probably bit off a little bit more than I could chew and I didn't really understand the limitations of training in winter in Europe," she explained.
"Pulsed with a huge amount of motivation after worlds last year, I just wanted to come into a new season and new team and really hit it with a lot of force. I have a tendency to overdo things," she admitted.
The racing Neylan's done in recent weeks has probably come a bit earlier than she'd anticipated but while supporting teammates Elisa Longo Borghini and Chloe Hosking, the 31-year-old is using the spring for conditioning while maintaining a team focus.
"I'll just hit the re-set button in May," she said.
"I'm definitely getting back on track. It's one thing to get back on your bike and then recover and be riding pain free but the next step is to be able to race. And there's a big, big, big distance between those - you have to crawl before you can walk. It's nothing I'm not accustomed to. I'm used to managing injuries and comebacks," Neylan explained with a rollercoaster few seasons already behind her.
Next, Neylan will head to Tenerife for an altitude training camp before resuming racing at the top level at a few events in Spain before hopefully being back to her best at Giro del Trentino Alto Adige - Südtirol and then the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile.
While frustrated, it's been the team environment at Hitec which is making things just that little bit easier.
"At the base of it is the fact that we have 11 really fantastic women and a really nice spread of depth, talent and girls of really genuine character," she explained. "The Norwegians just have a really nice, calm, accepting, compassionate friendly demeanour about them. It helps when you have a happy environment. It helps everyone to perform so we've just been feeding off each other and it's just a pleasure to race with them all."
- World championships