Me by Neah Evans
Neah Evans (BVMS 2014, MSc 2021) was a member of UofG’s Hares and Hounds running club throughout her first degree and didn’t consider becoming a cyclist until a combination of injury and nudging from her father set her on a different athletic course. Dad was proved right – to Neah’s annoyance! – and she is now an Olympic silver medal-winning cyclist, gearing up for the World Cycling Championships that take place in Glasgow this August.
What would you consider your greatest cycling achievements so far?
Getting to my first Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast was huge. At that point, I was still very unknown – I got into cycling really late – and the Commonwealth Games was as far as I thought it was going to go. But I came away with two medals, which I really didn't expect, so that was quite a pivotal moment. Winning silver at my first Olympics was pretty surreal too. Then last season, I got my first World Championships rainbow jersey [denoting world champion] – something you dream of as a cyclist, because it's so iconic.
You’re the first Scottish cyclist to win three medals at the same Commonwealth Games. What did it take, in terms of dedication and sacrifice, to achieve that?
I think it's a choice rather than a sacrifice. I made the choice to be a full-time athlete and I'm very privileged in what I get to do. But it does take a lot of time and commitment – the blessing and the curse of being an athlete. It's 24/7.
The World Cycling Championships are taking place later this summer – what does it mean to you to be racing here in Glasgow?
If the Glasgow velodrome didn't exist, I would not be a track cyclist now. So to race for a world championship on the track where you learned to ride – not many people get that opportunity. I always feel like I'm coming home when I come back to Glasgow.
"When you're training to race in tropical regions, you have plastic greenhouses like you get for plants, put heaters in them, and have a kettle boiling constantly for humidity ... then you ride your bike in it. You can see the condensation dripping off the ceiling!
What’s your favourite cycling event to compete in?
I really like bunch racing – just the flow and the chaotic nature of it. That's what I fell in love with about cycling originally. There's definitely moments when you think, “Oh my God, I'm going to die” – but then it's fine and you don't!
You practised as a vet for a time – what was that like?
I worked in a practice near Loch Lomond, which was a wonderful location. I was fortunate that my boss was very supportive of me going, “Can I mess the whole rota up so I can go to this bike race?” If I'd had a different boss who hadn't been as accommodating, I wouldn't have been able to capitalise on those opportunities and become a cyclist. But I'm very lucky to have such a good career to fall back on.
"I thought that cycling was something I would do alongside being a vet. I never thought I had the talent or the ability to be a professional athlete. It's funny how things work out.
Being sporty certainly runs in your family [Neah’s mum Ros was an orienteering champion and Olympic skier] – what were some of the features of growing up in such a high-achieving household?
I had a slightly different childhood in that I was home educated. I did a few years at school to do my exams, and that was such an eye-opening experience – you had a 45-minute class and it didn't matter if you did no work or all the work – at that point, you moved on to the next class. Whereas at home, you had a problem, and that problem would be there until you solved it. It taught me a good work ethic, but it also gave freedom and flexibility because if it was a nice sunny day, we’d go and walk up a hill and explore.
"Home education gave me an independent nature, but also a strong work ethic, which has stood me in good stead as an athlete. If you want to do something, you don't put it off, you don't wait for other people – you just go out and you do it.
Do you have any hobbies that provide a contrast to cycling for you?
My downtime is taking my dog Figaro for a nice long walk around the local National Trust park. He loves all the different sights and smells, and I just get out of the cycling bubble for an hour or two. He's a whippet – absolutely full gas when he's out exercising, and then the rest of time he just sleeps on the sofa.
How would you spend your perfect day?
I’d have a good coffee in the morning, take Figaro for a nice walk somewhere, and then have a skill madison session on the track. Though if it's a nice sunny day, I like going out for a long ride, putting in my headphones and listening to a podcast. Then later, I'd probably go out for pizza with my friends, relax and chill.
Memories of Glasgow
Studying for a vet degree had been on the cards since I was quite young. I loved horses, and really wanted to work with them when I was older. I remember thinking that being a full-time athlete was probably not that sustainable, so I thought I could work with horses and do a little bit of sport on the side. Which is a bit ironic, when I've ended up as a full-time athlete.
Being a beneficiary of UofG's Chancellor's Fund was a huge thing for me. It meant that I had this little bit of extra funding so I could take myself to placements slightly further afield. I did some in Portugal, went to some equine hospitals down in England – it just gave me more opportunities and took the financial pressure off. I was extremely grateful to receive it.
I'm currently doing a second masters, in animal nutrition. I really enjoy having the masters as it gives me a complete change of things to think about. But every so often, I’ll email the staff saying, I know there's a deadline, but I thought I was going to have loads of time to do it, and I've now got a bike race I'm going off to – can I please have an extension? It’s a juggle!
Garscube is a wonderful place, but one day a week we’d have lectures on the main campus, and that was fun because you'd see all the other students and feel the student lifestyle. Wednesday night was sports club night and we'd all go to Viper. I wasn’t a big one for the library, though. I think you can count on one hand the number of times I went in there.
Neah's immediate career target is the World Cycling Championships, to be held in Glasgow from 3–13 August. In the medium term, her goal is to go back to the Olympics, which take place in Paris in 2024. "And although I got three medals at the last Commonwealth Games," she says, "I still haven't actually got a Commonwealth gold – so I would like to do that too."
This article was first published June 2023.