NEAH EVANS may have spent only a matter of minutes in competitive action over the past nine months but considering this, the return on her track time has been more than satisfactory and bodes well for what could easily be the biggest year of her life.

Having ended last season back in February with team pursuit silver at the World Championships, it was a long summer for the 30-year-old which was punctuated with the disappointment of the news that her Olympic debut was being forced to wait a year following the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.

But following a disrupted training programme over the summer, Evans re-emerged firing on all cylinders. At last month’s European Championships in Bulgaria, she collected gold in both the team pursuit and the individual pursuit in what was her first major individual title.

Her rides were validation for what was, she admits, a relatively enjoyable few months of lockdown, considering the circumstances. She spent the initial period of the pandemic in Aberdeenshire with her boyfriend and fellow rider, Jonny Wale and was able to make the most of a less than ideal situation.

And when the announcement of the postponement of the Olympics came through, she felt a mixture of disappointment and relief.

“Two days before we went into lockdown, I’d crashed and broken my scapular but because the Olympics were still going ahead at that point, I got straight back into training,” she says.

“Part of me was devastated about Tokyo being postponed but another part of me was thinking well, that’s good for me. You’ve got to try and put a positive spin on things and so looking at it like that, it bought me a lot more time.”

Evans certainly made the most of her uninterrupted block of training, as did her GB teammates in the team pursuit, which includes fellow Scot Katie Archibald, with the foursome recording the second fastest time in history on their way to winning gold at the recent European Championships.

Evans knew she was in good shape but even she was somewhat surprised by the level of performance she and her teammates were able to produce in what were highly unusual surroundings.

“I had no idea how fast we were going - I thought we were going well but I had no idea about the actual time. When you cross the line, you look up at the scoreboard and so it was really cool to see how fast we’d gone,” she recalls.

“It was just awesome to be back racing. The other girls laugh at me because I get such a race-day buzz and I bounce about in the pits. It was a little bit strange having empty stands but if that’s the sacrifice we have to make to race, I’ll take it.”

Evans, along with every other Olympic hopeful, is now having to restart her Olympic build-up having got most of the way through it before the postponement of the Games. That she is on-track to make her Olympic debut at the age of 30 is somewhat unusual but is a testament to the progress she has made since leaving behind her life as a full-time vet and joining the British Cycling programme in 2017. She is now a mainstay in the consistently successful team-pursuit squad, which will travel to Tokyo next summer with the ambition of defending the title GB won in 2016. For Evans to have come so close to fulfilling her Olympic dream only for it to be ripped from her grasp may have been disappointing but, she says it only makes this next year all the more special.

“When I first got on the programme, I was really just seeing how I got on. First the major aim was the Commonwealth Games and then after that, the Olympics were next but they were two-and-a-half years away and a lot can happen in that time,” she says. “But then all of a sudden, the Olympics weren’t too far away and you realise how fast they’d come round. “So now, I feel a bit of déjà vu but this time, it’s even more exciting because I’ve had a sense of what’s to come and the build-up is pretty special. So I think going through it again, you maybe appreciate it a little bit more.”

Evans’ plans for the coming months remain somewhat uncertain and although she is hopeful of another competitive outing ahead of next summer’s Olympics, there is a distinct possibility that her next race will be in Tokyo. That would be a daunting thought for some but Evans is taking it all in her stride.

“I’m quite chilled-out – I know there’s no point getting stressed about all the tiny details. I have flaps, everyone has them but most of the time I know it’s about ticking all the boxes and going through the process rather than constantly focusing on the Olympics,” she says.

“I’m lucky in that I like training so rather than get too caught up in it all being about Tokyo and putting myself under a huge amount of pressure, I take it day by day and just get the efforts done.

“The hard sessions are tough, especially when it’s cold and wet, but you just need to get through them.”