The silver medalist in the 2012 UCI Road World Championships in Valkenburg, Rachel Neylan of Australia, must have looked at the parcours of this year's race in Richmond, Virginia and seen a medal in her forecast. But her heart broken by the death of her father just weeks before the race, Neylan could only pour out her emotions into her pedals.
With two laps to go, Neylan's solo breakaway sparked a move that grew to 10 riders, including teammate Lauren Kitchen, that grew to a full minute gap on the field with a lap to go.
"I spent three quarters of a lap solo off the front by myself, so it took me a little time to recover, but once I recovered we started taking turns pretty well. But then there was some hesitancy in the group, some attacking, and I had a go," Neylan said.
Kitchen went clear with Italian Valentina Scandolara, riding into the final ascent of Libby Hill with a slight advantage as the chase from behind finally began to make contact. With the steep, cobbled 23rd Street climb ahead, then a fast downhill into the final paved climb up Governor Street, Neylan stayed with teammate Tiffany Cromwell, who tried an attack into the climb but could not match the likes of Armitstead.
"At the end of the day, the favourites behind were too strong and they closed the gap. I was instructed to conserve at that point. I had nothing left in the final," Neylan said. "I was there at the top of the second climb but I had nothing left. I'm happy I took my chances and put it all out there today."
Just being present in the World Championships after such a devastating time was impressive enough, but Neylan was pleased to show a little more of her talents.
"It's been a difficult two weeks for me, and I'm just happy to have a good race today. My dad passed away three weeks ago. I rode for him today, and to put it out there was a special race for me. He wanted me to be here. I was just happy to be on the start line, and to have the legs to do what I did today, I'm just honoured to have been a part of such a strong Australian team. It's been a real privilege."
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