Not a personal cycling experience, but still one I'd like to share.
One of my former students in Japan took up cycling when she entered university (spring 2010). She had never really cycled before other than daily commutes to the train station on her little Japanese shopping bike.
Last year she came in 2nd in both the Japanese national time trials and road race championships. And she got funding from the Japan Olympic Committee.
Then earlier this year, she placed 8th in the Asian Cycling Championships.
And just over this past month, she won both Japanese national championships!! Pretty amazing considering she's been racing for fewer than 4 years and is only 21!
She also has her own wiki entry.