Lizzie Deignan talks winning, getting back in the saddle, and why cycling is a team effort.
On Friday, the 2015 world champion, who only returned to competitive action in April following the birth of daughter Orla last September, claimed a superb victory on stage five of the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour, taking the lead with just a day remaining.
We caught up with Lizzie to chat about her amazing win.
You’ve been the favourite in previous Women’s Tours but this year you weren’t regarded as one of the favourites, as you’ve openly admitted. How did this alter your mindset going into the race and what were your realistic expectations?
Yes, I really didn’t come into this year’s Women’s Tour as a favourite and didn’t expect that result to be honest! I was coming to the end of a hard block of training and using the race as a part of that before a much-needed rest. I was intending to support the team and might have hoped for a stage, but I’m over the moon with the overall win. It really was a team effort and everyone played their part, which was really rewarding.
The fact you managed to win the Women’s Tour just nine months after giving birth is obviously going to be a big talking point. How has becoming a mother altered your preparation for competitive racing and how has it changed your overall perspective as a cyclist?
I think it’s changed everything to be honest! I have something so important outside of cycling, another focus and actually, I think that has given me perspective. It’s also allowing me to enjoy my cycling more, having had some time away and a renewed sense of desire to win and deliver. If I am leaving my family for a week I want it to mean something.
You talked in the post-race interview about the chemistry and understanding you’ve got with Elisa Longo Borghini. What’s it been like to race with her so far and how do you feel you’re complementing each other even at this relatively early stage?
I’m really enjoying racing with her, I knew we would work well together. Our styles of racing really complement each other and it’s incredibly motivating having her in the same team. It was a team effort last week along with Elisa and the team on the road but also Ina in the car saying the right things and making me believe I could do it.
Psychology is obviously a massive factor in cycling as you proved by defending a one-second advantage on the final day and winning by two seconds. What does this say about the fine margins in cycling and what advice would you give to competitive cyclists at all levels who are in a similar position to you?
Never give up! A win is a win and every second counts at any level, so you need to defend every bit of time. It is incredible that, after a week of racing, it came down to seconds. For us, it was about marking the opposition and making sure they weren’t taking anything from us and conserving our energy at the right times.
What advice would you offer other women who are interested in joining the competitive cycling world?
Do it! You’ll never look back. I have got so much from the sport of cycling over the years that I would recommend it to anyone. If you’re just starting out, then find a friend to cycle with or ideally join a local club and then you can take up racing from there.