Rachel Neylan achieved a personal and professional goal in 2016 by earning selection for Australia at the Rio Olympic Games. However, the 34-year-old was "personally disappointed" by her race and result but following a long break off the bike, Neylan is focusing on performing to the best of her ability for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Prior to signing with Orica-AIS in March 2015, Neylan was accustomed to riding on one-year contracts. With the Australian team, Neylan has found a stable and secure environment which she hopes can help her to greater consistency and success over the next two seasons.
"In terms of my career, I am just focusing on the next two years," Neylan told Cyclingnews of her ambitions. "I want to consolidate consistency and focus on becoming a leader and be more consistent at the pointy end of races in Europe. I have proven over the last two years that I can win in Europe and that is an extraordinary motivating thing for me.
"To be in a stable performance environment like Orica, that has given me wings the last two years and has enabled me. I have said it in interviews before, it's invaluable to have that solid performance environment and nurturing framework in which I can take my racing to the next level."
Neylan's Olympic Games result of 22nd was down on her personal objective heading into the race that was suited her punchy climber characteristics. While the reality of the race was in contrast to her expectation, Neylan explained that she believes the team still rode to capacity on the day and the result will drive her and her teammates to greater success from the 2017 season.
"It was a pretty special year for me making my first Olympic team," she reflected. "It was such a great honour to ride in the green and gold and at the moment, it is the thing in my life which I am most proud about. Arriving back home on Australian soil, it is hitting home how special it is actually being an Olympian. But the reality is, is that I was personally disappointed with the outcome of the race and the bad luck that I had in the race and the fact that I wasn't able to actually show my full potential in the race with the way things unfolded.
"One thing you learn as you become more experienced as a professional, bike rider is all about things coming together perfectly on the one day to have an outstanding performance. I definitely had higher expectations of myself in terms of my input towards the team and the collective result but the reality is that we did everything we could on the day and we have to be proud of how we raced."
As a silver medalist from the 2012 Worlds, Neylan has proven her ability to perform on the big stage while wearing the green and gold and with the 2017 and 2018 Worlds suiting her strengths, Olympic 'redemption' at the 2020 Tokyo Games is far from her mind. With the addition of Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege to the women's calendar from next season, Neylan won't be short of objectives.
"The big t-word. A lot of people are talking bout Tokyo and with the collective disappointment of Rio, or I guess a lot of people not achieving their goals, there is an automatic look ahead and focus on Tokyo," said Neylan who is also targeting the 2018 Commonwealth Games on home soil in Brisbane.
Having targeted and medalled on several occasions at the Australian national championships in early-January, Neylan isn't placing as much emphasis on the titles as she has in previous seasons. With a long break after the Olympic Games and focus on the Ardennes and Giro Rosa in 2017, Neylan is taking a "come what may" attitude into the summer racing.
"It has been a big year mentally, physically and emotionally in my personal life as well. I took a few months out to ensure I am ready to go for the next few years. It has been a big build up to Rio so I want to make sure I am completely ready to go," she said.
One of those summer races is the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race where Neylan holds the honour as the inaugural winner. The announcement that the women's race will be broadcast live on free-to-air television for its third edition in 2017 is music to the ears of Neylan who states television is crucial to the growth and development of women's cycling.
"I feel that making a WorldTour umbrella is what we need. We need to make a clear distinction between the top echelon of women's racing and the developmental smaller category races and television is the big thing. Races with television exposure is the thing that is going to change our sport. In addition to that, having women's races on the same day as the men, when you have the crowds, is going to leverage our sport onto the global stage and capitalise on the millions of people who are watching cycling now all across the world," said Neylan on the inaugural Women's WorldTour for 2016 and importance of broadcasting women's racing.
"For me, the most exciting news I have heard in the last few months is that the Cadel Evans Road Race is again a UCI race for the women and the last 90 minutes of our race is going to be broadcast live on channel seven," she added. "It will be the first time in a long that we have had women's racing live on television and that speaks volumes in terms of the progression and the respect that we are now getting."