Lizzie Deignan will look to become the joint most successful female British rider in the history of the UCI Road World Championships when she returns to Yorkshire to compete in the Elite Women’s Road Race on September 28.
In doing so, she’ll cycle past her old school, on the roads she used to walk down as a child. We sat down with Lizzie to get her thoughts ahead of what promises to be an emotional and potentially historic event.
How’s training going and how do you feel physically and mentally?
Unfortunately, my training was disrupted by illness a couple of weeks ago. However, I’m feeling better now and I competed at the Boels Ladies Tour in Holland, so I’m ready to go in a couple of weeks.
It’s important to remember that even your rivals will have challenges with illness or injury, so it’s not about seeking perfection, it’s more about keeping your head up and focusing on the bigger picture.
This year’s World Championships are obviously extra special to you because it’s in Yorkshire. What are some of your earliest memories of the routes and what do they mean to you on a sentimental level?
I feel very lucky that I get to experience a home World Championships – I’ll race up the road that I used to walk to school on.
I never dreamt that cycling would reach such levels of participation and popularity during my career. When I was a schoolgirl, it was not a particularly popular sport. So, to know the roads I used to walk to school on will be lined with fans means the world to me.
You got a flavour of the route in the Tour de Yorkshire back in June. How did you find it and how have you had to adapt your training to suit the route?
The race route is really challenging and the finishing circuit is unusually technical for a World Championships, which I like.
The course is relentless and there are few areas which give you an opportunity to recover, which suits my riding style. I have trained specifically for repeated high intensity efforts, to replicate the punishing finishing circuits.
If you win a second World Championships, you’ll go level with Beryl Burton as the most successful female British rider in the competition’s history. Is this something you’re thinking about or are you just taking it as it comes?
Beryl Burtons career was incredible and very inspiring. I would be honoured to join her as a double road world champion, but my goal is to win the race rather than to break any records.
There’s been a lot of talk about your future in cycling. What are your plans and what does the future hold for you beyond cycling?
My sole focus is the 2020 Olympic Road Race. After that, I’m not 100% sure about my future – whether I continue to race or not isn’t certain, it’s still too far out to say. I would always like to stay involved in cycling in some way in the future.
What do you make of the competition, particularly the Dutch contingent including the likes of Anna van der Breggen and Marianne Vos?
The Dutch, as in previous years, are the team to beat. They have about five potential winners and the biggest team in terms of riders. The race will be hugely tactical as well as physical.
What are you predicting for the elite men’s world title? Peter Sagan has been tipped as the favourite, but is there anyone else you could see being in contention?
Peter is probably the favourite, he’s an incredible athlete and the course suits him. He’s got a big advantage, having won the title already.
I think Ben Swift has a really good chance too. He’s a fellow Yorkshireman so he will have the support of a home crowd. He’s finished on the podium of Milan San Remo twice in his career, and when he focuses on one goal (like he’s doing for the Worlds) he has a really good chance of victory.