Lizzie Deignan has ruled out retirement at the end of the year after seeing the cycling calendar decimated by the coronavirus.
Deignan, who became a mother with the birth of daughter Orla in September 2017, had last year floated the possibility this could be her final season as a professional as she targeted one final Olympic Games and one more attempt to regain the world title she won in 2015.
But even before Tuesday’s confirmation that Tokyo 2020 will be delayed by up to 12 months, Deignan had made up her mind to keep racing.
Struggling for the right words to say. Feeling a bit helpless and anxious. I am used to being team mates with people from all over the world, something I love most about cycling. It has occurred to me that every person in the world right now is my team mate, because every single person can make a difference in this fight. We are all in this together 🇮🇹 🇬🇧 🌎 #socialdistancing #teamwork
A post shared by Lizzie D (@l_deignan) on Mar 21, 2020 at 6:13am PDT
“Since I had my daughter I’ve only raced 21 days but I’ve done an awful lot of training,” Deignan told the PA news agency.
“To think that would be the end now this season, I wouldn’t be happy to stop and not be able to race another spring.
“I love the spring classics, that’s why I’m a bike rider, so I don’t think retirement is on the cards, even more so after this.”
Having predicted it would happen even before the IOC’s announcement, Deignan has welcomed the decision to postpone this year’s Games, and has promised to target them all over again 12 months later.
“For me, it’s obvious the Olympic Games won’t be on. It’s a weird thing to say out loud, but I don’t see how it could go ahead.”@lizziedeignan expects #Tokyo2020 to become #Tokyo2021https://t.co/sAcg698FlK
— Ian Parker (@iparkysport) March 23, 2020
“I have the motivation and optimism to carry me through to an Olympics in 2021,” the 31-year-old said. “What a special Games that will be.”
Deignan added that the lack of racing has helped remind her just how much she enjoys it.
“I miss it a lot,” the Trek-Segafredo rider said. “I love racing. In training now I’m frustrated. I may not feel like it off the bike but my feelings always come out more on the bike and I see the frustration in my training rides.
“But it’s not about me and my cycling, that’s tiny. What’s surprised me in this crisis is just how impactful sport is on the general population.
‘What do you think Orla? Should I race another season?’ The Olympics have always been a huge part of my career. I was lucky enough to compete and win a medal in a home games and those memories will stay with me forever. Although I am disappointed about the postponement of Tokyo, I am sure that it is the right decision. The Olympics is a celebration of sport but also of our global community and together we need to work towards a different kind of victory. I have the motivation and optimism to carry me threw to an Olympics in 2021, what a special games that will be, maybe Orla will be old enough to remember it!
A post shared by Lizzie D (@l_deignan) on Mar 24, 2020 at 1:13pm PDT
“My friends are telling me how much they are missing sport on the TV. I didn’t realise just how impactful it is on everyday life.
“Lots of people are missing professional sport so I definitely appreciate more that I am a professional sportsperson and I will do even more so when we get to race.”
After taking 2018 out following the birth of Orla, Deignan returned to action last spring and quickly showed her form, finishing seventh in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, only her third day back in competition.
The season was highlighted by overall victory in the Women’s Tour in June, and though she could not cap it all with a fairytale victory in the World Championships on home soil in Yorkshire, it was a successful first year back in the peloton.
That gave Deignan plenty of optimism for 2020, but instead she is yet to ride her bike in anger and has no idea when she might get the opportunity to do so.
Deignan had planned to start her season at Strade Bianche on March 7 but the Italian race was among the first to be postponed as the virus began to spread across Europe.
“I’m fairly relaxed about it,” Deignan said. “Certainly in comparison to some other team-mates. I suppose in my working life it’s about trying to keep a competitive advantage and the only way to do that at the moment is to be as relaxed as possible. Maybe I’m too relaxed.”
“I do miss my team-mates and the team, but they’ve been great in terms of communication with everybody, and I still feel like I’m part of a team working towards something together. We just don’t know what yet.”