Rachel Neylan plays cards to perfection to win Cadel Road Race

by Jessi Braverman


Rachel Neylan soloed to victory at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The 32-year-old launched two decisive attacks on the finish circuit and eventually rode away from the remnants of the elite leading group. Forty six seconds after Neylan crossed the line, Santos Women’s Tour winner Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) won a two-up sprint against Tessa Fabry (High5 Dream Team) to take second place, leaving Fabry the final spot on the podium.

“It was so emotional,” said Neylan, speaking to reporters following the podium presentation. “I’ve never been in this position before. To win such a big race, to come in solo into a finish in Geelong with world-wide media watching and with all Australian cycling fans following this big race – it’s a dream come true.”

Currently without a professional contract, Neylan rode for Building Champions Women’s squad in Geelong. Although she found herself isolated and outnumbered by Orica-AIS, Wiggle Down Under and Roxsolt, Neylan proved strongest on the climb. She is hopeful the victory combined with her silver medal in the road race at the Australian National Road Championships will pave her way back to Europe.

“It’s no secret that I’m without a professional team at the moment,” said Neylan. “I wanted to back myself at Nationals, Cadel’s Race, Oceania Champs and Tour of New Zealand – to get some runs on board and try to sign with a team that maybe has a vacancy. I decided to do it that way.”

“My cycling career hasn’t really been run of the mill,” Neylan added. “I think [my win] speaks pretty loud. I’ve just been on the cusp. I was very, very close at Nationals. I think it shows a lot that I’ve changed in terms of my racing intelligence and my racing confidence.”

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The victory was hard-fought for Neylan. The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was action-packed from start to finish, and Neylan was vulnerable without teammates. The first split came only 10km into the stage when a crash and crosswinds served to split the bunch. Twenty riders made the selection. The leading group would eventually be rejoined by the second group on the road, but the peace within the peloton would prove short-lived.

“Experience pays off,” said Neylan. “I stayed patient, and I really tried to play my cards and my strengths later in the race.”

Twenty kilometres from the finish, Neylan threw her first card. A number of attacks had already reduced the size of the leading bunch and Neylan’s move, marked by Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS), shattered the group that remained.

“That’s really what started to break things up,” said Neylan. “I saw an opportunity when GreenEDGE [Orica-AIS] had put it in the gutter. It was quite a windy spot. We made a small select group of eight or nine.”

“Valentina came across, and that’s what started to make the race in end,” Neylan added.

Although Neylan, Spratt and Scandolara worked well together out front, the move lacked staying power. Ellen Skerritt (High5 Dream Team) dragged the chasers back to the the trio, unleashing a new wave attacks.

When Spratt jumped away from the front group just inside the final 15 kilometres, she paved the way for the race winning move. Neylan, Scandolara and Fabry bridged up to Spratt, catching her just before the penultimate climb.

Unable to tackle the climb affectionately known as ‘The Wall’ by locals at the same pace as her breakaway companions, Spratt was the first to lost contact with the leaders. With Spratt unhinged, Neylan played her final card to perfection. The eventual race winner attacked on the steepest part of the course and left Scandolara and Fabry scrambling in her wake as they attempted to respond.

“Rachel was just too strong on the climb,” admitted Scandolara. “Spratty got dropped and I tried to chase, but we just couldn’t catch her.”

“At one stage, we were getting pretty close,” added Fabry. “But she just got away up the next hill and then she was nowhere to be seen. After that, it was just trying to stay away for the minor places.”

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Neylan survived the final climb with a 30 second advantage over Fabry and Scandolara. She would stretch out the gap before reaching the finish.

“My legs were feeling pretty good,” said Neylan. “But at that point, when you know you can win a race, you don’t listen to your legs. You don’t listen to your legs at all. You just go.”

Huge crowds cheered Neylan across the line in Eastern Beach. She saluted them as a huge smile spread across her face. It was her first win as an elite racer.

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“I honestly have never won a big race,” said Neylan. “I would class second place at Worlds [in 2012] as my biggest result. The podium at the National Championships in 2012, and the podium at the National Championships two weeks ago – those are definitely my key performances.”

“I think I’ve really mentally, physically and emotionally gone back to that place where I was in Valkenburg,” continued Neylan, referring to her silver medal at the 2012 World Championships. “Let me tell you – it feels good to be back.”

“I was to thank all the fans and sponsors and race organisers today,” added Neylan. “I want to especially thank Cadel Evans. We wouldn’t be here without him today.”

Result

Time/Gap
1. 64 Rachel NEYLAN (BCS) 3h01:10
2. 81 Valentina SCANDOLARA (OGE) +46
3. 33 Tessa FABRY (HFD) +48
4. 82 Amanda SPRATT (OGE) +1:22
5. 83 Lizzie WILLIAMS (OGE) +1:22
6. 85 Gracie ELVIN (OGE) +1:22
7. 71 Ruth CORSET (TRH) +1:22
8. 35 Ellen SKERRITT (HFD) +1:26
9. 4 Tiffany CROMWELL (RXS) +1:33
10. 91 Giorgia BRONZINI (WHT) +1:33
11. 84 Loes GUNNEWIJK (OGE) +1:47
12. 2 Carlee TAYLOR (RXS) +2:13
13. 41 Taryn HEATHER (BSS) +2:45
14. 13 Lucy COLDWELL (HWC) +3:02
15. 31 Jessica MUNDY (HFD) +5:01
16. 42 Kristy GLOVER (BSS) +5:40
17. 93 Chloe HOSKING (WHT) +5:40
18. 32 Kendelle HODGES (HFD) +10:02
19. 11 Miranda GRIFFITHS (HWC) +11:10
20. 3 Joanne HOGAN (RXS) +11:10
21. 12 Shannon MALSEED (HWC) +11:13
22. 123 Sarah MCLACHLAN (CBR) +11:14
23. 51 Jessica HUSTON (WCV) +11:30
24. 43 Lucy BECHTEL (BSS) +11:54
25. 111 Nicole MOERIG (BRT) +11:54
26. 14 Laurelea MOSS (HWC) +12:17
27. 125 Alexandria NICHOLLS (CBR) +12:17
28. 122 Laura DARLINGTON (CBR) +12:17
29. 72 Bridie O’DONNELL (TRH) +12:17
30. 94 Emilia FAHLIN (WHT) +12:17
31. 25 Michaela PARSONS (SPS) +12:17
32. 61 Lydia RIPPON (BCS) +12:17
33. 24 Sophie MACKAY (SPS) +13:09
34. 62 Minda MURRAY (BCS) +13:29
35. 115 Crystal WEMYSS (BRT) +13:29
36. 124 Chloe MCINTOSH (CBR) +15:13
37. 135 Emily COLLINS (SUV) +15:13
38. 5 Lucy MARTIN (RXS) +15:42
39. 145 Stacey RIEDEL (USG) +15:42
40. 102 Nikolina ORLIC (BNG) +25:46
41. 112 Rachel WARD (BRT) +25:58
42. 44 Brittany LINDORES (BSS) +27:05
43. 52 Carley MCKAY (WCV) +27:05
44. 73 Jessica TOGHILL (TRH) +27:05
45. 74 Kym LYNCH (TRH) +27:05
46. 15 Emily CUST (HWC) +28:31
47. 114 Gemma ANSELL (BRT) +30:42
48. 23 Jasmine MCMILLAN (SPS) +30:42
49. 142 Michelle APOSTOLOU (USG) +30:42
50. 143 Nerine ADAMS (USG) +36:01
51. 101 Justyna LUBKOWSKI (BNG) +36:01
52. 21 Verita STEWART (SPS) +36:01
53. 141 Merridy PEARCE (USG) +36:01
dnf 22 Anna-Leeza HULL (SPS)
dnf 45 Felicity WARDLAW (BSS)
dnf 63 Veronica MICICH (BCS)
dnf 75 Emma SCOTT (TRH)
dnf 92 Annette EDMONDSON (WHT)
dnf 95 Eileen ROE (WHT)
dnf 103 Jessica LANE (BNG)
dnf 104 Margeaux THOMPSON (BNG)
dnf 105 Prudence ROTHWELL (BNG)
dnf 113 Lisa KEELING (BRT)
dnf 131 Gina RICARDO (SUV)
dnf 132 Josephine MELDGAARD (SUV)
dnf 134 Stephanie LORD (SUV)
dnf 144 Hannah GEELAN (USG)
dns 53 Jemma BROWN (WCV)
  • Average speed of the winner: 37.5 km/h
  • Number of starters: 67
  • Riders abandoning the race: 14

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