Standing next to two of the brightest stars in cycling in Elisa Longo Borghini and world champion Marianne Vos wasn't where Rachel Neylan had expected to be after UCI Road World Championships in Valkenburg.
I was quite surprised and honored to even be selected. It's been a tough season, so this medal is a shock. It's a dream come true to be standing here, now.
But that was exactly where the Australian found herself after a dream ride in 129km event that earned her a silver medal. Neylan placed herself in the early break that also included Amber Neben (USA), Rossella Ratto (ITA), Charlotte Becker (GER) and Anna Van Der Breggen (NED) initially playing a team role for Tiffany Cromwell behind.
Things changed however as the break remained away inside the final two laps, with race-favourite Vos joining Neylan up front in what would be the winning move.
"I kept on waiting for the chance that Tiffany would come across, the break didn't have much more than 30-40 seconds for a long time so I was just thinking of conserving as much as I could thinking it might come back together and I'd have some work to do for Tiffany or one of my other team-mates," said Neylan after the race.
When it became apparent that the peloton was not gaining ground the plan changed, and Neylan was given carte blanche to ride for herself. She said she played to her status as a race underdog, and simply gave it one big dig on the final time up the Cauberg to try and stay away.
"I knew I had the strength on the climb, and so on the last time up the Cauberg I just gave it all from the bottom."
Only Vos was stronger, but the result was remarkable considering the Australian had been struggling to even get starts at races as recently at July due to the collapse of her former team, Nutrixxion Abus.
Neylan didn't let that stop her. She managed to put together a program of lower category racing all over Europe to keep her in the best possible shape for the world championships.
She flew herself around at her own expense to gain both the results and form, and said it's a dream that she's been able to pull it off.
"I was basically faced with the choice to sink or swim, and I arranged some guest rides and managed to keep myself in good condition.
"I was quite surprised and honored to even be selected. It's been a tough season, so this medal is a shock. It's a dream come true to be standing here, now."
Neylan came to cycling in 2008 through the National Talent Identification (NTID) program, after a distinguished background in elite rowing and athletics.
Her ride matches the best performance from an Australian in a world championship road race, joining Liz Tadich and Anna Wilson, who previously won silver in 1997 and 1999.