Sporting chameleon Kate McIlroy seems set to re-invent herself yet again, after a surprise podium appearance at the national road cycling championships.

The former New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year finished third in the women's race, bowing to four-time champion Rushlee Buchanan and track Olympian Georgia Williams in a thrilling sprint finish.

McIlroy already boasts an incredible CV over a variety of disciplines and her latest performance has her dreaming of a spot at the 2020 Olympics.

"I would never say no," she told Radio Sport. "You're a long time retired and the fact I can mix it up at the top end in cycling is promising.

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"I would never have said, a few years ago, that I could potentially look at Tokyo, but after racing [last] weekend, maybe it's a possibility."

Obviously, McIlroy is no complete rookie on the bike. After turning her back on the international triathlon circuit last year, she was invited to join the Specialized Women's Racing team in Australia as a guest rider.

She has been invited back this year on a full-time basis, and will rejoin them for the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race later this month.

"There's a national racing series from April to October and then we have been given a few wild cards at some of the big UCI events," said McIlroy. "So they are really big races against some of the best cyclists in the world.

"I'll just take each year as it goes, get the experience this year, and that might springboard me into a few more races overseas and in Europe.

"I'll re-assess it at the end of this year and see where I'm at."

Injury has had an unfortunate influence on McIlroy's career. She failed in her bid to make the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a track athlete, which steered her towards triathlon.

But even then, her body held her back and, when she tore a hamstring off the bone last year, that effectively ended her competitive triathlon aspirations.

"It was pretty disappointing and, in a sense, it forced me to make a few more decisions," said McIlroy. "I've never formally said I'd stopped doing triathlons, but I stopped doing ITU, had to get a job and stopped being a full-time athlete.

"But I'm still really competitive and like to ride my bike, so I decided I needed a few goals. Nationals was one of them, Taupo Challenge last month was another and it's gone from there.

"I'm actually in better shape than I thought I'd be. I just love racing.

"I thought it might have subsided a little bit, but that competitiveness is still there," McIlroy said.

She admits she still has a lot to learn but showed in Napier, she's a quick study.

When Williams moved to close down a breakaway, McIlroy shadowed her and was perfectly placed when the medals were decided.

"There's a lot that can unfold and there are so many different scenarios, you have to be on your guard and watching everyone the whole time."

By contrast, the 40km bike leg of a triathlon is usually about consolidation and setting up a decisive 10km run.

McIlroy hasn't ruled out a return to multi-discipline racing, but that's more likely to come over longer distances than Olympic-distance triathlons.

"In my head, it's too hard to go back to ITU once you're out of it for a while, just because the training required is huge." she said. "Would I do a half-ironman? Yeah, that's definitely on my bucket list."