GB’s Neah Evans admits tactical shake up in Euro final

·5-min read
The team of Belgium in action during the Man’s Team Pursuit track cycling at Messehalle during the European Championships 2022 on August 11, 2022, in Munich, Germany. Photo: Thomas Niedermüller / Munich2022 (Thomas Niedermüller / Munich202)

By Will Jennings in Munich

Neah Evans says Britain’s team pursuit stars had to rip up their data-driven approach at the European Championships after grinding out a fourth-place finish in Munich.

Evans, Josie Knight, Jess Roberts, Anna Morris and Pfeiffer Georgi were unable to battle past France in the bronze medal showdown and cap a whirlwind week at the multi-sport German event.

Upon arrival, the team – and every British rider – was confronted with a radical 200m track with virtually no straights and corners that gave riders ‘whiplash’.

The women’s team pursuit squad, spearheaded by Olympic silver medallist and five-time European champion Evans, qualified in fourth on Thursday before defeat against Germany on Friday teed up a clash for bronze with the French.

But they were comfortably beaten under the Messe velodrome lights as experienced Evans, and her new-look team, struggled to adapt to the unfamiliar and significantly shortened conditions.

Evans had no complaints but admits they were forced to go in blind to an event usually dominated by maximising fine margins and the appliance of sporting science.

The three-time World Championship medallist, 32, said: “You could see the difference with the track in our first training session.

“We thought it would be a bit different to normal but we literally hit the first bend and were like: ‘oh my god.’

“It’s really bizarre – coming out of turn two pulls you down to the back and then turn three rolls you up.

“Because it’s so short, there’s almost like a whiplash effect and any movement is massively magnified.

“It’s little things – because team pursuit is so based on facts, splits, graphs and data driven, you get it to a track like this and it’s like: ‘scrap it, we’ve just got to go off feel and see what we’ve got.’

“It was against everything I’ve been training for since I got into British Cycling. It was a shock to the system.

“It didn’t help us knowing other nations had trained together and worked on it and we haven’t had that opportunity, but that’s racing.”

Finishing fourth was no significant setback for Evans’ team, however, who were racing together for the very first time and look to have a bright future in front of them.

Knight, 25, is an Olympic and World Championship medallist while Morris and Georgi have shown promising signs on the junior international circuit.

And then there’s Welsh star Roberts, who pulled off a stunning silver in the 10km scratch race later in the evening to catapult herself into the spotlight.

The 23-year-old admitted to nearly quitting the sport during the last two years before a five-month break reignited her desire and fired her back to her best.

Evans believes the group have so much more in their locker and is genuinely excited about what the future holds with two years to go until the Paris Olympic Games.

“For us, we know there’s more to give and for us to work together as a team,” she added.

“There isn’t a huge expectation for us among people who know team pursuit.

“But we still put pressure on ourselves – we want to use this as a stepping stone for the Worlds.

“We knew coming away with a medal was going to be a big ask. It wasn’t meant to be today but there’s so much potential and learning for the future.

“It’s very exciting – hopefully we’ll have a stronger position for the Worlds and next year is going to be the year.

“It’s the first time we’ve done a team pursuit together as a team and it’s been really difficult.

“I don’t read too much into this particular result, but watch this space.”

Elsewhere in the Munich velodrome on Friday, Jack Carlin led Britain’s team sprinters to a hard-fought bronze medal to gear up for his individual event this weekend.

The two-time Olympic medallist, 25, sped on to the podium alongside fellow Scot Alistair Fielding and Hamish Turnbull by beating Poland after an initial win against Spain in the heats.

Fielding, 22, and Turnbull, 23, are relative newcomers to the team and are sensing a window of opportunity given the thin nature of the current squad.

And the young Scot is eager to seize the momentum and propel himself into the equation ahead of Paris 2022.

Fielding said: “It’s good and nice to be on the podium – I’m very happy.

“It’s a good start – me and Hamish are new to the team and it’s good to put a marker down on early on.

“There’s not too many of us on the squad at the moment, so we’ll keep pushing each other and we’ll have a really good shout in a few years’ time.

“We’ve just got to keep working hard and it will pay off.”

The multi-sport European Championships Munich 2022, featuring Athletics, Beach Volleyball, Canoe Sprint, Cycling, Gymnastics, Table Tennis, Triathlon, Rowing, Sport Climbing, takes place 11th-21st August on the 50th anniversary of the Olympics Games in the Germany city. Watch daily live coverage across BBC One, Two, Red Button, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website.