Neah Evans goes from tortoises to Commonwealth Games medal

Scotland's Neah Evans, right, celebrates her bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games 25km points race with compatriot Katie Archibald who won silver. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Scotland's Neah Evans, right, celebrates her bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games 25km points race with compatriot Katie Archibald who won silver. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
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Neah Evans grabbed a bronze in the points race yesterday and has ambitions to add to that medal haul before her Australian Commonwealth Games experience is over.

But it wasn’t that long ago that she was more concerned with getting a wee tortoise moving on two wheels than she was with her own progress on a bike.

The 27-year-old from Langbank, who had never competed in a cycle race prior to 2014, was a small animals vet until Team GB offered her a place on their elite programme last year.

Putting that life on hold to focus on fulfilling her sporting potential, she has been thrilled by how quickly she has advanced but she says she does still miss her day-to-day involvement with animals in need.

“I enjoyed caesarean sections. You get a dog coming in, you have to assess it and decide that this is the right option and try to get the puppies out alive and keep the bitch alive which would be easier said than done sometimes. You’d have puppies in not great condition and you’d have to do a lot to resuscitate them. 
I remember waking up every two hours to feed two 
puppies to get them through the night.

“I once had a tortoise and its shell was growing abnormally, pressing on its back legs. I removed part of the shell to allow the legs to come out and then put it on rollers. That was fun. You got all sorts. On my last day, I had a snake with problems with its scales. There was such a variation, you never knew what you’d get.”

That has helped her mentally when it comes to 
the hurly-burly of competition, where split-second decisions can be the difference between burn out or burning brightly.

“In training you know what you’ll get, with racing there is a natural instinct of when to go and when to move. As a vet, in a sense, you also have to rely on instincts. Someone might bring an animal in and it might look like it’s not too serious but you just know there is something up and have to investigate. They are different instincts.”

Those instincts served her well when offered the chance to quit her job and join the Manchester-based GB programme.

“Up to that point I was juggling work as a vet with cycling. I was happy with the job but I knew working was compromising my cycling. I had to fund myself some way, though, and then when British Cycling came to me I was like ‘oh, I could do this seriously and make a living out of it’. It was a split second decision of ‘yes, absolutely’.”

Her instincts also helped her negotiate the long, tactically challenging points race, coming in behind team-mates Katie Archibald, who she will join on track once more today as they again target medals in the scratch race before turning their attention to the Currumbin Beachfront where they will take on the individual time trial and road race on Tuesday and Saturday.

Trying to make up for lost ground, she has put pressure on herself but knows it is nothing compared to the expectation levels shouldered by Archibald. “To be honest, she takes all the pressure off and I can do my own thing and go under the radar.”