TO compare the Neah Evans who is at Birmingham 2022 to the Neah Evans who was at Gold Coast 2018 is like comparing two different people. 

Four years ago, the Renfrewshire native had never competed in a major cycling competition and she was, she openly admits herself, barely known within the world of cycling, or outwith. 

This time round, however, Evans turns up to her second Commonwealth Games with a wealth of experience and a cabinet full of medals, including Olympic silver, three world medals and five European titles. 

It is, she acknowledges, quite a contrast. 

“The difference in four years is pretty bizarre,” the 31-year-old says.  

“It’s easy to take it for granted being part of the British Cycling system but when I take a step back and look at where I was four years ago, I’m in such a different position now. 

“In some ways, there’s less pressure on me now because I know I don’t need a result to maintain my position in the squad. But on the other hand, I have much greater expectations on me now. 

“Last time, I knew that physically I could win a medal but I also knew there wasn’t much external pressure on me to do that, any pressure came from myself. 

“Now though, I know people glance down a start list and see my name and know I’m capable of a medal and that’s a very different feeling.  

“So much can happen during a race and so medals are very much not a given but people almost take it for granted that you’ll be up there at the pointy end of the race every single time. You need a lot of luck on the day to be in that position though. 

“I know I’ll have no freedom to move around in the points or scratch races, there’ll always be at least one rider marking me.  

“In some ways, that’s a nice challenge but in another sense, it’s tough because I know there’s no room for error.  

“I guess you have to take this pressure as a compliment.” 

That Evans, these days, is one of the biggest names in Scotland’s cycling squad says much for her talent. 

A vet by trade, Evans came to competitive cycling in her twenties, which is positively ancient compared to many of her peers. 

Her initial goal was just to have a bit of fun, before a Commonwealth Games appearance in 2018 became her target, with little intention of continuing her racing career post-Gold Coast. 

However, she has now established herself as a stalwart of the GB team and is in Birmingham spearheading Team Scotland’s cycling squad alongside fellow Olympic medallist Jack Carlin. 

Evans will ride the individual pursuit, points race and scratch race on the track over the coming days, before having the option of racing both the road time trial and road race if she gets through these days of track racing unscathed. 

Since winning silver as part of GB’s team pursuit squad in Tokyo last summer, Evans’ racing schedule has been relatively light due, in no small part, to her keenness to focus her efforts on these Commonwealth Games. 

Few recent competitive appearances have both its positives and negatives.  

On the up side, fresh legs are not a problem. 

On the other hand, however, a lack of racing means it’s easy for doubts to creep in, something that even possessing Evans’ level of experience at major championships cannot stave off completely. 

“I know in theory how I normally feel ahead of a major championships but when you’re actually in it, it’s so easy to worry that you’ve over-cooked it or should have done more. I try to rationalise it and have confidence that it’ll all come together but really, the reality is, it’s too late to do anything more,” she says. 

“I feel the panic coming on but I’m getting better at putting that to one side. 

“The swings in emotions are crazy though – one minute I’ll be thinking I’m a hero and I’m flying then the next minute, I’ll be thinking oh my goodness, I’m so unfit, I should just go back to being a vet. It’s such a rollercoaster but I’m normally pretty good at rationalising it and coping with it and then as soon as the race starts, you forget about it all.” 

Having won silver and bronze on her last Commonwealth Games appearance, it is easy to assume Evans will make the leap to the top step of the podium this time around. 

And while that is undoubtedly her goal, she is in no doubt that elite sport is rarely as straightforward as that. 

“People will assume I’m going for gold this time and yes, obviously that’s what I’d like to do but it’s not what I’m focused on,” she says.  

“I’m focusing on putting in a world class performance and hopefully that’ll be enough to elicit a medal but you have to focus fully on the process of getting there, not the medal itself.”