When the Australian team was named for the Bergen World Championships with a reduced women's squad of five riders, Rachel Neylan was a conspicuously absent name. A silver medallist on her Worlds debut in 2012, the Orica-Scott rider had never hidden her love of riding in the green and gold.
While Neylan "didn't have a standout season" season by her own omission, the 35-year-old explained to Cyclingnews she believes she "would be an extremely strong asset to the team" and appealed her non-selection.
"I wanted to do it with dignity and respect and that is why I didn't disclose any details and plus, I was racing in France so I was kind of busy, so I made the choice not to make it public as I was going through the process," Neylan told Cyclingnews following confirmation of her successful appeal. Neylan and Chloe Hosking will now join Katrin Garfoot, Amanda Spratt, Shara Gillow, Sarah Roy and Gracie Elvin for the September 23 road race.
"Because it was just something I wanted to do and for me, if people found out or didn't, it didn't matter. What mattered to me was the action I took for those five girls involved in the team and to give them the greatest opportunity for the most optimum performance on that day.
"I strongly believe, that if they were able to take two more riders that I would be an extremely strong asset to the team. Taking into consideration 2000 meters of climbing, and the fact that it is a 150km race. Both of those things, the altitude meters and the endurance requirements of the race, are extremely well suited to my capabilities. Coupled with my current form."
When the Australian Worlds team was announced with a full quota for the men but reduced squads for the women's and U23 teams, questions were asked of Cycling Australia with Chloe Hosking tweeting she would be appealing the decision. In the day's that followed, there was no lack of discussion regarding the squad selection. For Neylan, the reaction was somewhat surprising who expressed that while she was appealing her non-selection, she backs in the national federation.
"I must admit I am pretty surprised that it gained so much attention with the Australian sporting and cycling public. It is quite a nice feeling to have that support behind us," she said. "I guess there is always a deeper meaning to every decision that a lot of people don't understand. Cycling Australia is going through a massive transformation and transition phase, and I just want to make the point clear that I have the upmost respect for the greater vision and reform that Cycling Australia is embarking on."
Last August, Neylan achieved a childhood dream of becoming an Olympian as she was selected for the Rio road race. Just a little over 12-months on, Neylan's drive and ambition to represent her country on the world stage is stronger as ever and has not been diminished by off-the bike affairs.
"The green and gold is why I ride. It is why I get on my bike every morning. It's why as a wide eyed 10-year-old I decided that all I wanted to be was an Australian athlete. I wanted to be an Olympian, I wanted to be a world-class athlete wearing the green and gold and that is what makes me tick," she said. "Worlds is still of great importance to my career as a cyclist but I want to make a strong point that ultimately I didn't have a stand out season."
For Neylan, the decision to appeal wasn't to feed her own ego or to ensure a shot at the podium on a course suited to her capabilities but to strengthen the hand of Australia in the bid for a medal.
"There were five girls selected prior to me who all deserve that position in front of me with WorldTour podiums and the race results that they got. I was against the clock in regards to my performances but in the last month, I definitely proved that my form is there to be able to support these girls on the Bergen course. I want to make the strong point that I alluded to before, that it is not about my jersey, it's not about my ego, it's not about ticking another box. This was about standing up for something I believe in for Australian women's cycling.
"Worlds is always a special race for me and I have some incredible memories of my performances at Valkenburg, Ponferrada, and Richmond where I was in the race defining moves and active deep into the race. I wouldn't have put my hand up if I didn't feel that I was in capable form to go deep into the race. I am going into this race 100 percent as a support rider for the team. My personal ambition is to have the greatest race I can for the Australian women's cycling team."
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