THE welcome party wasn’t quite what Neah Evans had hoped for. Back in Britain after claiming an Olympic silver medal in the team pursuit, the cyclist set off from London to drive the length of the country back to the family pile in rural Aberdeenshire.

The traffic, though, was so bad that by the time she turned off the ignition her parents had given up and gone to bed. The joyful reunion would have to wait until the morning.

“We got back to Bron the Monday and I drove up to Aberdeenshire on the Wednesday and got stuck in a major traffic jam,” revealed the 31 year-old. “That was a 14-hour travel day which was quite a trek. I would have been just about quicker cycling!

“My parents didn’t actually wait up to see me as I got in at half two in the morning. I sent them a message about the terrible traffic and they just said they would see me in the morning! But it’s been lovely being home. My dad got an old bike frame and painted it silver and put it in the front of the garden as a bit of an ornament. It was nice just being back.”

A 14-hour drive offers plenty of time for reflection. Evans’ initial reaction to taking silver behind the Germans was one of frustration at not getting the gold but any lingering disappointment has since been tempered with the acknowledgement of how far she has come in just five years.

Glasgow Times: Neah Evans in action along with Katie Archibald, Laura Kenny and Josie KnightNeah Evans in action along with Katie Archibald, Laura Kenny and Josie Knight

“The competitive cyclist in me is still a little bit disappointed,” she admits.

“You want to win and be the best – that’s why we do it. But the more rounded, rational part of me remembers that in Rio I was a vet and I didn’t watch it because I was working.

“I had never even done a team pursuit at that stage. And so I remember I’ve come a long way and a silver medal is pretty impressive. It’s a split answer. As an athlete I’m a little bit disappointed but as a person I think it’s amazing.”

Evans’ Olympic experience was better than most, with crowds permitted in the velodrome that was based in a different part of Japan from most of the other events. And that made a huge difference.

“It was very difficult to know what to expect due to Covid. There were a lot of regulations – getting through the airport took forever because we had to do a test there and then and get the negative result.

“There was that ethos, though, of everyone wanting to help you. There were a huge number of Japanese support crews with flags and signs and always waving. They love a double-handed wave!        

“We weren’t based in Tokyo, we were in a different region, so they were able to open up the stadiums and there was a 50 percent capacity crowd. That made it better as we went out expecting nobody to be there and we like showing off!

“We like having an audience and people cheering us on. So when we found out we were going to have a crowd, that was brilliant. That really made it for me. It’s not the same competing in an empty velodrome compared to having an atmosphere.”

Evans used to live in a flat with Katie Archibald which made sharing the Olympic podium with the Milngavie cyclist even more special.

“We actually used to live together so we’re good friends as well as team-mates,” adds the four-time European champion. “She’s been a good help.

“Katie had warned me that everyone comments on how heavy the medal is and she was right! Everyone says it! But it’s really quite special.

“I’ve won big medals before and everyone goes, “oh, well done”. But with an Olympic medal everyone asks if I’ve got it with me and if they can hold it. That reaction is amazing, to see how much pleasure everyone else gets from seeing the medal. And I don’t think I appreciated that before how special that would be.”

Evans and Archibald were reunited in Glasgow recently to mark the two-year countdown to the first ever combined cycling world championships in the city.

And as a Glasgow University alumna, it was nice for Evans to return to her old stomping ground.

“I managed to swing by the university when I was in Glasgow. It was funny being back in Kelvingrove Park as that was where I used to do running intervals when I was a student. And I remembered places I had walked past on nights out. It’s weird when you go away from somewhere for a while and then go back again as it makes it feel a little bit more special.”