Fully vetted, Neah ready for Tokyo test

Fully vetted, Neah ready for Tokyo test


In the first of Scottish Cycling’s #TokyoThursdays, where we chat to the Scottish riders selected for the upcoming Olympics in Japan, we sat down (virtually) with Neah Evans to discuss her reaction to qualifying for Tokyo, her aspirations for this summer in addition to her interesting journey into the sport thus far.

“Going to Tokyo is very special, but it still hasn’t sunk in yet with the times that we’re living in, so it’s a bit surreal still, but I’m very excited”, said Evans when asked how it felt.

With an unrivalled history in the Team Pursuit, Team GB and therefore Evans will head to the Far East with a very clear target. The blue-ribband event in Britain, the squad will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of that Olympic title.

“From a British Cycling standpoint the Team Pursuit has been the main focus of any single event and they’ve been so consistent in the Olympics as well as throughout other big events, so we always target the Team Pursuit with every other discipline is secondary to that. To be part of the Team Pursuit squad is huge; quite a lot of pressure going forward, but it’s cool!”

Although the Glasgow University alumnus has been part of the Team Pursuit squad since 2017, Evans is not taking anything for granted:

“I’m not too comfortable, because it’s not a comfy place to be”, she joked. “I’ve ridden with the girls so much now that we know each other’s intricacies and warning signs of when someone is struggling or going really well. To now be in that cycling bubble within British Cycling is very exciting”.

Evans, now 30, has been described as a latecomer to the sport and she admits that its only recently she has realised that she could make it at the top level.

“It’s only been now that I’ve realised that I can be at the elite level, because there’s always been targets, like trying to get into the Scotland set-up, get to the Commonwealth Games, and then after joining the British set-up and it was focusing on getting a medal at the Commonwealths, where I won two, which was amazing. So, after that I was like ‘what’s next? The Olympics are next? Let’s see if I can do that!’. It was only after I gained selection that I guessed that maybe I’m quite good at this cycling thing! It’s been a lot of fun over the last few years.”

The two-time Commonwealth medallist describes her introduction to the sport, which came through her father after suffering a number of injuries hill-running.

“I was doing some running at Uni, but it wasn’t elite level. After an injury my Dad suggested that I’d be quite good at cycling, so I started off in 2014 when I raced BUCS and I fitted in quite well.

In fact Evans spoke fondly of her teammates at Glasgow University CC:

“I was quite fortunate because at Glasgow University I fitted in with a couple of people who were transitioning out of University and had some connection to Scottish Cycling. The Commonwealth Games had just finished in 2014 and the programme was having a revamp and were inviting people along, and through my friend Jess Lee, who now rides for Hong Kong, I was asked to come along to a couple of taster sessions and it just escalated so quickly from there.

“I actually started off as a sprinter and then there was a decision that I was better suited to endurance physiologically.”

Having switched from sprinting to endurance also provided Evans with a struggle in balancing her full-time veterinary work with training commitments need as an endurance rider.

“In hindsight, I couldn’t have asked for a better boss as a Vet as he was so flexible in letting me go to races as such [and when I switched to endurance] he let me work part-time, which made a huge difference and that was when it became serious”.

On continuing her journey as a cyclist and turning full-time, Evans was candid in her reflections.

“I got a trial with British Cycling and I got on [their programme] - that was 2017. I still remember it well, as I was working all day Sunday and had Monday night on-call before dropping my phone into work on Tuesday and driving down to Manchester, completing some training sessions and then going to my first UCI Track World Cup – and I didn’t do particularly well, unsurprisingly. But I just remember being like ‘I get to ride my bike now – this is amazing!’”

It was a late and unlikely transition of profession, from vet to cyclist, for Evans, so we asked her what advice she’d give to others hoping to make a late breakthrough.

“I know a lot of people say ‘to be good at sport you’ve got to start young and work your way through the development and the feeder systems.’ But ultimately, you don’t. If you’re willing to put the work in and have a good support network around you – you can do it at a later age. If you want something, go out and get it. Just stick at it.

“If you enjoy it then it doesn’t really matter, it should be about being the best that you can be and if you stick at it, you’ll continue to improve and enjoy the process. Yeah, I am going to the Olympics, but even if I hadn’t made it, I’ve still had a great time just developing and getting better.”

If that doesn’t provide inspiration to people of all ages to go out there, enjoy riding their bike, and enjoy the process of improving, then we don’t know what will.