• Rachel Neylan has gone from fast moving soloist at the 2015 championships to flying the team colours for Orica-AIS in 2016 (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The past few months have been an emotional rollercoaster for Orica-AIS cycling star Rachel Neylan after the death of her father.
By
AAP

Source:
AAP
10 Jan 2016 - 6:21 AM 

Australian cycling star Rachel Neylan will take the memory of her beloved father into the road race at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships.

Tony Neylan died of cancer only three weeks before Neylan rode superbly for 19th at the September world road championships.

She described the past four months as an emotional rollercoaster.

"He was a huge supporter of my cycling career. I hold his name in my heart pretty proudly," she said.

"It's a huge motivation for me, tomorrow (and) I'm always motivated for a national championship, so I don't need extra."

Even without the ongoing grief of losing her dad, Sunday's 102km race at Buninyong, near Ballarat, is a landmark event for Neylan.

Only a year ago, her career was on the brink when she won silver in the same event behind Peta Mullens (Wiggle High5).

Neylan also finished second in the women's road race at the 2012 world championships, but the intervening years had been cruelled by injury.

Despite her undoubted talent, she was without a team a year ago and uncertain what the future held.

But second at the nationals and her win a few days later at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Rd women's race led to a contract with the powerful Orica-AIS team.

She said the circumstances between 12 months ago and now were chalk and cheese.

"I've earned my stripes now and I feel I'm in a great situation, a great position in Australian cycling at the moment, and I want to enjoy that," she said.

"It's a really, really authentic, genuine, fun dynamic with the team.

"That's all the motivation I need."

Orica-AIS, like their Orica-GreenEDGE colleagues in the men's road race, are the team to watch.

Among Neylan's teammates, Gracie Elvin has also won the race twice and Amanda Spratt is another former winner.

But Neylan will remind her colleagues she and Mullens were riding on their own when they dominated last year's finish.

"I can give my teammates a little bit of info on what it's like to be on the outside and how motivated those girls are," she said.

Mullens showed she is ready for Sunday with strong form earlier this week in the Bay Classic criterium series.

She hopes other top Australian women not in the Orica-AIS team will race smart.

"It's just a matter of whether the individuals are smart enough to ride together and not play into the hands of Orica-AIS.

"I just hope the rest of the professional women in Australia can team up in a certain way, so that it counteracts the strength in numbers that Orica-AIS have."