Since she began cycling four years ago, she has had an uphill battle to balance her work and cycling commitments and this year has been no different.
As a technical and support manager for a South African software company in Australia, she explained that her greatest challenge in preparing for the world championships was time.
“Most of my work involves travelling, so finding time to train in the week is extremely difficult. If I get between six and eight hours to train, I’m very lucky.”
She credited her coach, Damian Mason, for much of her success. Under his guidance, she split her time between the indoor trainer, strength work and the occasional ride on weekends.
Over the years, Neethling’s focus was on breaking the hour record on the track and, as a result, she has had minimal racing experience.
“I haven’t been doing many bunch races, so when I decided to do world champs and the points race, it was a big challenge to get some actual race experience and track time.”
The closure of her local track in Perth (for renovations) meant she had to travel across the country for some racing exposure. In the end, she only had a window of six weeks to prepare on the track before going to the United States.
“When our track finally opened, it was quite a battle to get track time to do some decent efforts. You need quite a bit of time to train for a points race, but I couldn’t really get anything longer than 15 minutes.”
Despite the obstacles, the 40-year-old was adamant to race in both the team pursuit and points race.
Without compatriots at the event, the team pursuit turned out to be an interesting challenge. However, she was granted permission to team up with New Zealand’s Erin Criglington and Dutch rider Carolien van Herrikhuyzen.
Having never ridden together, the three were at a distinct disadvantage when they lined up against nine other teams. Despite this, they placed fourth, an achievement Neethling said “wasn’t exactly what we hoped for, but it was still good enough”.
Success in the points race – where Neethling finished three points ahead of USA’s Camie Kornely and five clear of Britain’s Suzannah Doyle – made up for the earlier disappointment.
“It was my second worlds and I definitely was not going to walk away without giving it absolutely everything I had,” said Neethling. “It’s important to never stop dreaming and it’s always been a dream of mine to win a world championship.
“To set a world record is fantastic, but to get a world title and have your national anthem played, to get that medal and jersey, is completely different. I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to experience that.”