Neah Evans says competition for Olympic Madison places will go to the wire
Neah Evans expects the battle for places in Great Britain’s women’s Madison team for the Tokyo Olympics to go down to the wire this summer.
The 29-year-old Scot will get another chance to push her own claims when she rides in the event alongside Elinor Barker at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin this week, but knows the competition from Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald is not going away.
“It’s still very open,” Evans told the PA news agency of the battle for places. “There’s four of us in the mix and just because me and El are riding the Worlds does not guarantee we’re the favoured pair.
“It won’t be decided until quite near the time.”
The popular Madison race is making its debut in the women’s programme at a Games this summer and has become a major focal point for the riders.
Britain have found themselves spoilt for choice given the strength of the women’s endurance squad, while most other nations zeroed in on their pairing some time ago.
“It’s a mixed blessing because there’s four of us,” Evans said. “We don’t have the continuity of other squads – you look at (Holland’s) Kirsten Wild who has ridden every World Cup event with Amy Pieters – but there are no complaints because every session is an opportunity to prove something and bring an extra element to the team.”
It also means Britain will be well placed if a late change of plans is enforced upon them. Last month Evans won Madison gold alongside Kenny at the World Cup in Canada, but then saw Kenny suffer a broken shoulder when she crashed out of the omnium at the same event.
Kenny will still be in Berlin for the omnium and potentially the scratch race, but will not ride in the team pursuit due to her injuries.
“Things happen,” Evans said. “If something does happen we’ve got a lot of contingency plans. It’s a bit chicken and egg, because in some ways you’d like to get the team nailed down, but having the flexibility gives us a lot of good opportunities and challenges.”
Chickens and eggs are subjects Evans knows plenty about. Though she is the eldest member of Britain’s squad, she is also the least experienced, having put a career as a vet on hold to pursue her cycling ambitions.
A keen runner at university, Evans took up cycling on the advice of her father and quickly discovered a talent for it, even as she balanced the demands of training around the long hours and occasional night shifts of a veterinary practice.
When she beat Kenny in the omnium of a Revolution Series in London, people sat up and took notice – and a call from British Cycling quickly followed.
Four years later, Evans is a two-time European champion and a near-certainty to be on the plane to Tokyo.
“It would be huge,” Evans said of Olympic selection. “I can’t say it would be a dream come true because I never even dreamed it, I never thought it would be an option, so it would be absolutely massive.
“But on the flip side of that, with British Cycling you’re not just going there to take part. For some people getting to the Olympics is the target, but for British Cycling getting there is step one.
“There’s the pressure of knowing they’ve been so successful. You’re not just looking to take part, you’re going there to get a medal and that’s a whole different ballgame.”