Neah Evans knows, in time, she will reflect more fondly on what she achieved in winning silver at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Aberdeenshire rider picked up her first Olympic medal as part of the women’s team pursuit in Japan but has a tinge of disappointment for what might have been.
Germany seized gold in dominant fashion in Tuesday’s final, triumphing by more than six seconds over the Team GB quartet of Evans, Katie Archibald, Laura Kenny and Josie Knight.
GB had reclaimed their team pursuit world record in the third heat of the day, seeing off USA to book a place in the gold medal race. But the Germans set the new benchmark in the following race against Italy and went a step further in the final, shaving another two seconds off their record which had stood for all of 90 minutes.
“It’s a bit surreal,” Evans said. “It’s all happened so fast; the Olympics has been on the calendar for such a long time, particularly with the delay.
“I sat out the qualifier and came in for today. It was an hour-and-a-half turnaround and it was quick. There was the emotional high and low of breaking the world record in that first round then Germany went a fraction quicker.
“We came out in the final and we knew straight away. We knew we were going to have to have the ride of our lives – we had that in round one effectively.
“It’s bittersweet. We’re Olympic silver-medallists. It’s huge, it’s amazing. Yet there’s a tiny bit of you that can’t help but be disappointed.
“I suspect in a day or two it’ll seem even better but right now it’s mixed emotions.”
Huge credit has to be given to the German four. Mieke Kroeger, Lisa Klein, Lisa Brennauer and Franziska Brausse set world records in each of their three races.
GB expected them to be fast but their pace throughout was relentless.
“They’ve had three fantastic rounds,” said Evans. “You could see them on the limit but they’ve nailed it each time. Fair play to them.
“They had posted the quickest time at worlds last year but a few mistakes cost them in qualifying. They got it right this time so we knew they were going to be a force to be reckoned with.
“It’s been difficult with Covid as normally we’d see people at events and it’s a bit easier to track other people’s progress. We’ve not had that and it has made a slight difference.
“We knew they were going to be strong, just not quite that strong. We broke the world record and they went faster than us; you go ‘right, that’s the new level’.”
It was certainly an eventful day for the former vet. After progress was sealed to the final, Evans was inadvertently taken out by team-mate Archibald, something she is able to smile about now.
Evans’ bike was also hooked up with an on-board camera, giving television viewers back home a close-up view.
“That definitely didn’t go to plan,” Evans said with a laugh. “It shows we’re human, mistakes happen.
“We’ve never had an incident like that. To do that on an Olympic final day, you can’t make it up. We’ve just got to laugh about it now.
“Once we twigged what was happening I thought ‘oh Katie, this video is not going to look good for you’. I told her if we get copy of it, I’m sending it to You’ve Been Framed and I’m getting the money.”
Her Olympic experience, for now, is over. She sat out the first heat on Monday but was drafted in for Elinor Barker for the semi-final race.
She does not know yet when she will be heading home, with organisers keen to get athletes home after their events have finished to minimise the Covid risk.
The calendar, however, looks blissfully clear for the next while. The Commonwealth Games next year in Birmingham and the 2024 Olympics in Paris are longer-term targets but Evans will have the chance to take stock in the coming weeks.
— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) August 3, 2021
A return home to Aberdeenshire is almost certainly on the cards, with her parents Malcolm and Ros based in Cuminestown just outside Turriff.
“There’s no targets, there’s no structure to it. It’ll just be going out and enjoying riding my bike. Maybe stopping at a café here and there for a bit of cake. Aberdeenshire cafés, stock up on your carrot cake.”
Evans also had the rare honour of celebrating her birthday in an Olympic bubble, turning 31 on Sunday, meaning a double celebration will be on the cards.
“Thankfully my team-mates started singing happy birthday quite quietly,” she said. “It’s a big buffet in a big dining hall and I managed to get to them just as they started.
“I said ‘see if you pipe up any louder I’m going to pour my coffee down you’. But it was still pretty cool; not many people get to spend their birthday prepping for the Olympics.
“I’ve got a cool picture of us floating round the track with the Olympic rings in the background. It was a special one, for sure.”
Ros Evans represented Great Britain at the 1984 Winter Olympics, competing in cross-country skiing. She was also a national orienteering champion, so stories of sporting success run in the family.
“I know they’ll be delighted. It’ll be nice once I come home and get back up north, to see them and spend a bit of time with them reflecting,” said Evans.
“Because my mum went to the Olympics as well, we can compare stories. (I can) enjoy the moment a little bit more and I think then it’ll hit home a bit more about what we’ve achieved, when you’ve got that support bubble.
“This all happened so fast and they’re not out here, so you can’t celebrate. Once I can get home, see people and say my thanks, it’ll be really nice.”