Deignan dreaming of Yorkshire glory
Lizzie Deignan is allowing herself to dream of glory on home roads in Yorkshire next month after a stellar return to racing following the birth of baby Orla last year.
Deignan always had the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire as her target when she began her comeback but securing a second world title looks like a more realistic goal after a year highlighted by victory in the Women’s Tour in June.
“It’s been beyond my expectations,” Deignan told PA of her season so far. “I never expected to be able to win something like the Women’s Tour. My goal was always the world championships and being in the best form I could be for that.
“Obviously my dream and my goal is to be world champion but I never expected to be able to just stroll up and win a world title.
“I think you have to aim for something even if you’re not 100 per cent sure you can achieve it, but each step of the way I’ve surprised myself so maybe that dream could become a reality.”
Almost a year into parenthood, Deignan – who is considering retiring after next year’s Olympic Games and world championships in Switzerland – said she has no bigger inspiration than Orla.
“It’s hard to describe it,” she said. “It means that cycling is less important yet I’m more motivated than I ever was. It’s about making the most of my time in the sport so I’m able to support Orla growing up.
“And when I’m away from here I have to make every moment count. Every time I’m in a different country, away from (husband) Phil and Orla I make that count.
“Before, you do the same races year on year, the same hotels, it felt like the same airplanes. It was just a repeat pattern and taking each race for granted. Now every race is an opportunity.”
There can be no bigger opportunity for a rider than the chance to race for the world champion’s rainbow jersey on home turf.
Deignan spends much of time her time on the continent during the season, but she still makes frequent visits to Yorkshire where she is an ambassador for Leeds Cares, an organisation which works with Leeds’ teaching hospitals to improve healthcare provision.
The women’s road race virtually passes Deignan’s front door in her home town of Otley, and with a technical finishing circuit in Harrogate including a short climb before the finish line, it seems custom-suited to the 2015 world champion’s strengths.
“It really suits punchy, rouleur sort of riders, of which I’d like to think I’m one,” said Deignan, who got a first-hand look at the circuit when she raced the Tour de Yorkshire in May.
“There are lots of pinch-points on the circuit where it narrows over small bridges which is really unusual for a World Championships finishing circuit, so positioning will be hugely important.
“You won’t want to be out of the top 20 at all on the whole course.”
Deignan returned to competition for Trek-Segafredo in April, picking up a top 10 finish in only her third race back at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
After a decent showing in the Tour de Yorkshire the 30-year-old had top top-10 stage finishes in the Tour of California before her brilliant Women’s Tour victory which included a stage five win in Builth Wells.
Since then, Deignan has only raced twice, taking a break before an altitude camp in Livigno. A second altitude camp was planned but, unsure how much she gained from the experience, Deignan instead chose to remain at her Monaco base to minimise disruption.
Deignan is scheduled to pin numbers on once again this weekend at the GP de Plouay-Lorient Agglomeration Trophee in France before the Boels Ladies Tour in Holland.
She will wait until the week before the women’s race on September 28 before returning to Yorkshire.
“If I’m at home there’ll be invites to grandma’s for tea so it’s better to stay in my own bubble as long as possible,” she joked.
Racing a world championships on your doorstep might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it could come with unique pressures attached.
Deignan said she cannot think about it in such terms.
“I think it’s worse for my friends and family,” she said. “I think my dad will be on the verge of collapse all day.
“I just have to think logically about it. Pressure is just loads of people wanting you to do well, which is a positive thing.
“The break from pro-cycling gave me a perspective that I must enjoy what I’m doing more and enjoy those experiences.
“It will be an unforgettable day in my life whether do well or not. It would be crazy to see that pressure negatively.
“I’m just determined to enjoy it.”