Over the past nine months, NEAH EVANS might have only spent a few minutes competing, but despite that, the track time has been more than satisfying and bodes well for what may be the greatest year of her life.
It’s been a long summer for the 30-year-old, after finishing last season with silver in the team pursuit at the World Championships in February, punctuated by the frustrating news that her Olympic debut will have to wait a year due to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.
But Evans got back up to speed after an interrupted training program over the summer. She took gold in both the team pursuit and individual pursuit at last month’s European Championships in Bulgaria, her first major individual title.
Given the circumstances, her rides were proof of what she acknowledges was a reasonably pleasant period. With her friend and fellow athlete, Jonny Wale, she spent the early part of the Aberdeenshire pandemic, making the most of a less than desirable situation.
And she felt a combination of disappointment and satisfaction when the announcement of the postponement of the Olympics came in.
I fell and broke my shoulder blade two days before the cancellation, but since the Olympics were still going on at the time, I started training again immediately,”Two days before the cancellation, I had fallen and broken my shoulder blade, but since the Olympics were still on at the time, I immediately started training again,”
“Part of me was devastated because Tokyo was postponed, but another part of me thought, well, this is good for me. You have to try to look at things positively, and if you look at it that way, it gave me a lot more time.”
Evans, like her British teammates in the team pursuit, which includes Scotland’s Katie Archibald, who posted the second-fastest time in the country’s history en route to gold at the European Championships, made the most of her uninterrupted training block.
Evans knew she was in good condition, but even the success she and her teammates were able to achieve in this extremely unusual situation shocked her somewhat.
“I had no idea how fast we were going – I thought we were doing well, but I had no idea of the actual time. When you cross the finish line, you look at the scoreboard and it was really cool to see how fast we were going,” she recalled.
“It was just great to race again. The other girls laugh at me for being so excited on race day and jumping around in the pits. It was a little weird to have empty grandstands, but if that’s the sacrifice we have to make to race, I’ll take it.”
Like all the other Olympic hopefuls, Evans now has to restart her Olympic preparations almost before the Games have been postponed. It’s a bit odd to make her Olympic debut at age 30, but a testament to the strides she has made since leaving behind her life as a full-time vet and entering the British Cycling program in 2017. In the consistently competitive team pursuit squad which will travel to Tokyo next summer to defend the title GB won in 2016, she is now a fixture. It may have been disappointing for Evans to come so close to achieving her Olympic dream just to lose it, but she says it’s only going to make it even more special next year.
“When I first got on the program, I really just wanted to see how I got on. The first big goal was the Commonwealth Games and after that it was the Olympics, but they were still two and a half years away and a lot can happen in that time,” she says. But then the Olympics were not far from all of a sudden, and you know how easily they came. “But then all of a sudden the Olympics weren’t far away and you realize how quickly they’ve come. ” Reliving it, I hope, might make you enjoy it a little more.
Evans’ ambitions are still somewhat unclear for the coming months, and while she hopes to compete again before the Olympics next summer, it is entirely probable that her next race will be in Tokyo. That would be a frightening thought for some, but Evans takes it all in stride.
I’m very comfortable – I know there’s no point in getting all the little information worked up. I have limitations, everyone has them, but I know that most of the time,