Cycleplan ambassador and world champion Lizzie Armitstead is having an amazing start to the 2016 season. Four wins early in the season at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche, Trofeo Binda and her first ever win at The Tour of Flanders have confirmed what we already knew: Lizzie Armitstead is the best women’s road race cyclist.
But with the big one, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, just a few months away now, Cycleplan took the time to catch up with Lizzie to find out how her preparations are shaping up. Plus, we look forward to the Tour de Yorkshire, and its record prize money, which takes place in her home town later this year. Here’s what she had to say:
Lizzie, how are you feeling following your four early season wins?
“The season has started really well. There have been aspects of my training which have been compromised because of illness so to still be winning races despite that gives me some extra confidence.”
Which race win has been your toughest so far, and why?
“My hardest race so far has been Drenthe World Cup. I went into the race in the Women’s World Tour leaders jersey and as one of the favourites. Travelling to the race was very tiring as it was not very straight forward in terms of logistics so I wanted to make sure the race was worthwhile. Unfortunately, I had to pull out of the race due to a migraine. It was disappointing because you effectively lose a weekend of ‘work’ but I also lost the leader’s jersey and the possibility to race for another win.”
Is it important to be winning races this early on, five months out from the Olympics?
“The Olympics is my main goal of the season but I have a responsibility to my trade team to perform on many more occasions than that. I love the spring classics and they have always featured on my list of goals for the season. It’s a long time between now and Rio and of course, I do not want to peak too early, but I will have a short rest period after the spring before rebuilding towards the games with the added confidence of some wins under my belt.”
Do you give yourself permission to have a break sometimes, or is it important to be a perfectionist to do as well as you’re doing?
“It takes as much discipline to recover properly as it does to train properly and both are of equal importance to optimal performance. I will take a week off my bike after Flèche Wallone in order for my body and mind to recuperate, before changing my focus towards the mountains and then the Rio course.”
Do you have a strategy for coping with nerves on race day?
“I always try to focus my energy on logical thoughts rather than irrational [or] emotional thoughts on race day. Experience and age have helped me with my nerves – I don’t get as nervous as I used to. I only really get nervous for my goal races and not the others or I would waste a lot of nervous energy every weekend!”
Do you approach Olympic preparation differently compared to last time? This isn’t your first Olympic games after all, so did you learn lessons from the first time around? Do you have to adapt your training to the likely conditions in Rio?
“I am happy that I have the London 2012 experience as I think it’s really valuable for my Rio preparation. I am able to keep a better balance between training demands and media/sponsorship demands in the run-up to Rio. My time is very well planned and managed so that I am not compromising my training and recovery time. I have learned to say no when I cannot manage people’s expectations without compromising my training. Training will be much more climbing-focused to adhere to the demands of the Rio course.”
In terms of the Tour De Yorkshire, how do you feel about racing in your first race back in the UK since becoming world champion?
“I never expected to be able to compete in my hometown in a UCI women’s race, let alone as a world champion. I am really excited about the opportunity.”
Do you think competing in your hometown in front of your friends and family will spur you on even more?
“It’s not often I get to compete with friends and family watching, it gives me extra motivation to do them proud and put on a good show!”
It is a record winning prize for women’s cycling this year at the Tour De Yorkshire at £15,000. That can only be good for the sport, right?
“It’s a massive commitment from the organisers to put up this level of prize money, I’m proud that a ‘blueprint’ of how a race should be organised has started at home in Yorkshire. Hopefully, it sets a precedent for organisers in the future.”