Lizzie Deignan is one of the greatest British female cyclists of all time and has been at the forefront of road cycling for over a decade. Lizzie, who hails from West Yorkshire, is a world road race champion, Olympic silver medallist, and two-time Women’s Tour winner.
Away from the track, she’s married to fellow cyclist Philip Deignan and mother to daughter Orla. And we’re proud to say, she’s been our ambassador since 2015. Let’s look at Lizzie Deignan’s life and career in more detail – and what the future holds for her.
Full name: Elizabeth Mary Deignan
Born: 18th December 1988
Weight: 57kg (126lb)
Lizzie in the early 90s with her bike
Born and raised in the market town of Otley in West Yorkshire, Lizzie was inspired to take up cycling aged 15. Representatives from British Cycling’s Talent Team Programme visited her secondary school and spotted her obvious aptitude for the sport. The rest is history.
Lizzie: “I didn’t grow up in a cycling family, but we were always very active. Life was based around various sporting activities including swimming, skiing, running, and, of course, cycling. The whole family would take part, so it started from there. Cycling discovered me when the GB Talent Programme visited my school. I jumped at the chance, mainly to get out of a Maths lesson! My competitive side kicked in when one of the boys challenged me to a race – and the rest is history.”
Lizzie’s early cycling career was a sign of things to come, as she won the Junior British National Track Championships in 2005 and came second in 2006. The same year, she came first in the National Criterium Championships, following up with a second successive victory in 2007.
In fact, 2007 was hugely successful for Lizzie, as she also became Under 23 European Scratch Race Champion and finished runner-up in the Points Race that same year.
The following year, Lizzie again won the Under 23 segment of the European Scratch Race and took part in her first UCI Road World Championships, playing a part in Nicole Cooke’s gold medal ride.
Around this time, Lizzie's talent as a road racing cyclist began to take centre stage.
Lizzie: “After being spotted at school, I joined the British Cycling Academy and worked with some fantastic coaches and mentors, including Phil West. Phil guided me to success initially on the track, and I remember progressing quite quickly and enjoying success. I also remember making some good friends who I’m still close to today.”
In 2009, Lizzie took a major step in her road racing career. She won the Under 23 British National Road Race Championships and finished 2nd in the senior category. Lizzie signed for professional team Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam and achieved the best young rider classification at the Giro d'Italia Femminile.
Lizzie continued to shine on the track, too, winning a gold medal in the team pursuit at the 2009 UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
By summer 2010, though, she had firmly established herself as a road cyclist. In 2010, Lizzie was riding for Cervélo TestTeam and won three stages of the Tour de l'Ardèche and a silver medal in the road race at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
This achievement was just the start of things to come. In 2011, Lizzie won the women’s British Road Race National Championships, attaining her first ever national title at a senior level. Whilst riding for the newly named team Garmin- Cervélo, she also won the stage six race of the Thuringen Rundfahrt der Frauen and finished seventh at the UCI Road World Championships.
Lizzie’s stock was rapidly rising – and her sights were set on the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Lizzie: “It was around this time that I discovered road cycling and was able to combine winning medals on the track with taking part in road races. I was still part of the GB set up, but also riding for trade teams in the UK and in Europe. It was only just prior to 2012 that I had to choose between the two, as it became obvious it was not going to be possible to combine them. Whilst I had success on the track, for me the freedom of road cycling was too appealing not to try and make my way in the discipline ahead of the Olympic Games on home soil.”
Throughout 2012, Lizzie geared herself up for the Olympics. She got the year off to a flying start, recording victories at the spring one-day races the Omloop van het Hageland and Gent-Wevelgem, riding for professional team AA Drink-leontien.nl.
In June, she recorded a second successive top-two finish as she was the runner-up at the British Road Race National Championships.
Then the big one. The 2012 Olympics beckoned, and Lizzie entered the road race on a rainy opening weekend aiming to make history – and she did. She won a silver medal, becoming the first British athlete to win a medal at the 2012 Olympics.
That Lizzie finished just behind Marianne Vos, arguably the greatest ever female cyclist, can be seen as a victory in itself.
Lizzie had now become a household name in road cycling. Despite enduring an injury-plagued 2013, she won her second British Road Race National Championships title that year.
2014 was a solid year for Lizzie – she joined Boels-Dolmans, the dominant team in women’s cycling. Alongside her star-filled roster of teammates, she achieved a good string of results at major races. She won the Omloop van het Hageland for the second time, finished first at the opening World Cup race of the 2014 UCI Women's Road World Cup, and won her first gold medal for England in the Commonwealth Games road race.
In addition to these successes, Lizzie finished in overall first place in the UCI Women’s Road World Cup and came second at the Tour of Flanders. It was a fantastic year all-round – and yet, greater results were still to come.
Lizzie: “Winning silver at London 2012 remains one of my career highlights. The opportunity to take part in a home Olympics, let alone finish on the podium, is something I never expected to happen to me. The feeling around the Games across the country was phenomenal. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the crowds lining the whole course, including my friends and family, and the atmosphere when finishing on the Mall. Winning the first medal of the Games for Team GB was a huge honour.”
Like 2012, Lizzie started 2015 with one major goal in mind – to win the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, USA.
Her early season form set her on course to achieve her goal. Lizzie clinched the first overall victory of her career when she won the Tour of Qatar, and she followed this up with three one-day World Cup victories. She then shot to the top of the UCI world rankings after winning the British Road Race National Championships for the third time and retained her World Cup title following victory at the Grand Prix de Plouay.
Then, on 26th September, Lizzie became road world champion in Richmond, beating Anna van der Breggen in a thrilling sprint.
In the process, she became only the fourth British female cyclist to win a road race world title, following in the footsteps of Beryl Burton, Mandy Jones, and Nicole Cooke. This victory was the icing on the cake for Lizzie in another successful year in her career.
2016 was another memorable year, both on and off the road. Lizzie won four races in the UCI Women’s World Tour: Strade Bianche, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the Tour of Flanders, and the overall title at The Women's Tour. She was also victorious in the Boels Rental Hills Classic and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and won the 2016 women’s World Championships team time trial with Boels-Dolmans. Away from cycling, she married fellow road racing cyclist Philip Deignan in September. The ceremony attracted large crowds and was attended by some of the top names in cycling.
Lizzie: “2015 was one of those years where everything went right. Myself and my Boels-Doelmans teammates were dominant throughout the year. Having been frustrated to miss out on winning UCI Road Cycling World Champs at the end of 2014 in Ponferrada (Spain), I was determined that 2015 wouldn’t escape me. I trained specifically for the Richmond course throughout the year and it was incredibly satisfying to succeed in my goal. I know now I need to practice my finish line celebration! I was also really delighted to win the team time trial at the UCI Road World Championships 2016 alongside my Boels-Dolmans teammates.”
Although Lizzie had a tough start to her 2017 season after falling ill, she went on to win a fourth British Road Race National Championships title and the Tour de Yorkshire on home soil. To top it off, in the August of that year she became the third woman to win the Grand Prix de Plouay on two occasions, joining prestigious company in Marianne Vos and Emma Pooley.
However, shortly after this victory, Lizzie suffered another setback, contracting appendicitis at the Boels Rental Ladies Tour. She had to have her appendix removed and lost 2kg of muscle weight during 13 days of bed rest, prior to the World Championships in Bergen.
Her fortunes would improve come the turn of the year, though, as she found out she was pregnant and gave birth to daughter Orla in September 2018. Lizzie has said numerous times what a life-changing moment this was for her, not just from a personal point of view but also on a professional level.
Lizzie: “2017 was a bit frustrating in terms of various illnesses and I took 2018 off the bike whilst pregnant. Orla joined Phil and I in September 2018. Motherhood has completely changed my perspective on everything, but it has helped me rediscover my love of cycling. I now know it’s not the ‘be all and end all’ and I have a family to come home to, win or lose. It also made me realise how much I love my job and how lucky I am to do what I do. I was delighted to join an exciting new women’s WorldTour team, Trek-Segafredo, who were brilliant supporting me throughout my pregnancy and during my return to competition in 2019.”
Lizzie winning the 2019 Women’s Tour
After taking nine months away from cycling, Lizzie returned in early 2019 as part of Trek-Segafredo (who also supported her throughout her pregnancy). Her training was going extremely well, and her fitness returned far quicker than she’d expected. She subsequently competed in the Tour de Yorkshire in April, and then entered The Women’s Tour in June.
Although Lizzie won this race back in 2016, she didn’t enter the 2019 edition as one of the favourites. She’d come into it on the back of a hard block of training, and in her words was “hoping for a stage”. But, like the Lizzie of old, she came roaring back with a sensational victory, racing into the lead with just one stage remaining.
Lizzie’s next big objective was clear – to win gold at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Then, the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Her dream may have been put on hold, but this setback didn’t faze Lizzie. She returned to Yorkshire with her family, spending three to five hours per day on her bike and exploring the routes she used to ride as a girl. This period also allowed Lizzie to spend more time with Philip and Orla, and her extended family.
A few months later, as the world began to return to a semblance of normality, Lizzie got back to winning ways, showing no signs of rustiness from her period of limbo. A victory at the Grand Prix de Plouay meant that Lizzie became the first woman ever to win this race three times, and this success was followed by a victory at La Course by Le Tour de France 2020 just four days later. Lizzie then won her third race of the season in October at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, taking top spot after a breath-taking 30km solo move.
Lizzie: “Coming back to cycling in 2019 was tough – it took me a long time to recover my peak fitness, and the women’s peloton had definitely moved on since 2017, so winning the Women’s Tour was a pleasant surprise and in no small part down to my Trek-Segafredo teammates. I was really excited about 2020 as I felt I was back to full strength and along with the rest of the world was extremely frustrated by the effects of the pandemic, but it taught me that you have to be flexible and that my training and preparation had to be flexible. We were very lucky in cycling that we had a season, even if it was delayed, and again thanks to brilliant teamwork, Trek-Segafredo ended as the top women’s team in 2020.”
As the year progresses, the eyes of the nation will be on Lizzie to see how she performs in the build-up to the 2021 Olympics - due to take place from 23rd July until 8th August – and this period could be one of the most defining of Lizzie’s career.
Beyond Tokyo, what does the future hold for Lizzie Deignan?
Lizzie: “I am enjoying the balance of family and cycling and therefore took the decision to renew my contract with Trek-Segafredo until end of 2022. I still have goals that I want to achieve, including hopefully success in Tokyo, and I’m really excited about the 2021 UCI Road World Championships as they are in Flanders on a course that I’ve been preparing for. As we have World Championships in Flanders, I'm shifting my focus to the Cobbled Classics (Flanders and Roubaix). I’m very excited about them and hope to be in good shape.”
So, there you have it. A lowdown on the cycling career and life of Lizzie Deignan. We’re delighted to have this cycling legend as our ambassador, and we wish her all the best for the future.
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