Neah Evans and Katie Archibald joked they might never get to race together.
Every time they were slated to compete alongside each other, some unforeseen event would derail their best laid plans.
Evans recounts at least three occasions where they were due to team up and circumstances conspired against them. When they finally got to be team-mates last month, at the Six Day Manchester Event, they won the women’s elite madison race.
Right now, the Scottish pair are the top two female riders in Great Britain, ahead of Olympic champions Laura Kenny and Elinor Barker. For Evans, who hails from Cuminestown in Aberdeenshire, it is the fruit of a long-awaited labour.
She said: “We’ve joked about never getting the chance to race together – each time we were due to do the madison, something would happen beforehand. The night before Manchester we said to one another ‘don’t do anything stupid, just get here in one piece’.
“We probably put a bit of pressure on ourselves and we did think ‘what if we actually bomb out of this?’ but there was a sense of relief at the end after bigging ourselves up. Hopefully we get more opportunities to ride together and showcase ourselves. There’s only two madison spots and there’s so many good riders. It’s difficult to get in from the start.”
The two have long enjoyed a friendly rivalry and were Team Scotland colleagues at the Commonwealth Games last year, in which they won two medals each. They also teamed up at the European Track Cycling Championships last August, winning the team pursuit with Kenny and Barker.
Evans added: “We ride races in a fairly similar way but have different strengths on the bike. We have a similar thought process on the track; if we’re thinking about an attack, it’s an automatic reflex (to do it). You don’t need to say a huge amount and can race off instinct.”
This year has continued in much the same vein as the last, with Evans attacking from the front. As well as victory in Manchester, she also won the madison at Six Day Hong Kong, alongside Emily Nelson, and the omnium at the same competition. That followed two medals at the National Track Championships in January, winning the points race and taking second in the individual pursuit.
A recent training camp in Gran Canaria prepares her for focusing on time-trial racing over the summer, as she reflects on her accomplishments from the last 12 months.
She said: “From a personal point of view, I’m pleased with how I rode at the track nationals. To win the points race against such a good field was massive.
“It didn’t go as well as I would have liked at the World Championships. I didn’t perform how I would have hoped. I still came fourth in the madison but I know I’m capable of so much more. I rode with Elinor rather than Katie due to a late switch and there was an impact.
“It was fantastic to ride with Katie in Manchester but there was a frustration of it not being at the World Championships.”
There is little on her road-racing calendar for the coming months, with the potential to fit in a competitive return to Aberdeen. The 28-year-old competed in last year’s Tour Series in Aberdeen, coming fifth in the women’s race but was part of the Storey Racing team who clinched the team prize on the night.
The route for this year’s event, due to take place on May 16, was unveiled last week and Evans hopes to sample it first hand.c
She said: “I had a quick look at the route and it looks like something that would suit myself and Katie. It depends what happens between now and then but I’m hoping to do it.
“It seems to be very hit-or-miss weather-wise with the Tour Series – it’s either raining and awful or tropical. It was tropical last year and I was telling the other girls it’s always like that in Aberdeen.
“It’s a fairly short and sharp race and there’s not a huge amount of pressure on you. I enjoy racing and the opportunity to get in a fairly local race is always good. A huge amount of people turn out and it’s fun to race in that atmosphere.
“Scottish Cycling are hoping to put a team together and the last time I rode for Scotland was at the Games. Wearing the Scotland skin is always special, so to do that in Aberdeen would be great.”