By Shane Stokes
Former Irish international Tommy Evans has confirmed that he will take up a new role with Cycling Ireland, acting as Talent Identification and Development Officer from January 2nd.
Evans won the FBD Milk Rás in 1996, has been national champion for both road race and time trial and has been one of the most respected international competitors in recent years. He narrowly missed out on a Rás stage win this year but made up for that when he briefly held the yellow jersey and finished 5th overall.
"I am very happy to get this new role," he said in recent days. "I will be working alongside [High Performance Director] Frank Campbell and Brian Nugent, the youth development officer. 50% of my job will be to do with talent identification and 50% will be to do with development. I will be working with the likes of under 14 teams upwards, probably from there to junior level. We will be dealing with what we already have at the minute, and then looking for talent beyond that.
"The role will be based throughout Ireland, but probably starting off in the North because we have the youth development officer here. I am going to need his assistance because we will be going to schools and other places."
Evans said that there will be clear steps for him and Nugent to take together in order to boost the grassroots level and thus improve the chances of more professionals coming through in future years. "We will be doing a few things. First of all, we have the kids who are already out there winning races so we will start to work more closely with them. Then we want to identify the kids that are racing well at present, the ones who are going like motorbikes but haven't come to full notice. The stage after that will be looking for the kids that aren't yet involved in cycling, trying to get them involved."
Evans is likely to visit the Sean Kelly Academy during the season, Irish cyclings overseas base in Belgium, and says that there has been talk of him training the Youth Olympic team there. He feels that with his experience, he can increase the chances of young riders making it to a high level in the sport. "I have made mistakes the hard way over the years, so I will certainly advise them on things that can help. There are also so many more scientific developments than was the case before and people can make real use of this.
"They were not available when I was young... if they had been, everything could have been different. Now they have all those tests. During my career I have used every scientific method available and am pretty up to speed on that."
Evans will be giving direct guidance to the young riders and also to others in the sport. "The idea is that I will be doing some coaching as well. I have been doing some prior to this, but it will now be part of my job. I think it will be more or less trying to get a system in place... coaching coaches possibly, not just riders.