Lizzie Deignan targets 2020 Olympics in first full season since childbirth
Former world champion Lizzie Deignan’s primary focus in 2020 is the Tokyo Olympics, like many other riders in the pro peloton. The course suits her abilities and, after finishing second at London 2012 and fifth in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Deignan is hoping for gold next summer.
However, the 30 year-old Brit is hoping for for more opportunities ahead of that target, in what will be her first full season since giving birth to her first child in September of 2018. Her 2019 season saw her return to competition only at Amstel Gold Race in mid-April, but next year she intends to start early.
“I’ll ride a proper season, I’ll start early and do a lot more racing than I did last year,” Deignan, 30, told VeloNews. “Also I’ll do the Giro which I didn’t do last year because I didn’t feel physically able to do a 10-day stage race, but also to be away from [daughter] Orla for that long.”
Traditionally starting the day before the Tour de France, the Giro is the longest race on the women’s calendar and in 2020 it finishes three weeks ahead of the Olympic road race, allowing perfect preparation for the Brit’s Gold medal bid in Tokyo.
Without the major climb of the men’s course, the Olympic women’s course earned criticism upon its announcement. Deignan, however, does not see the course’s layout as a problem.
“I always find issue with the conversation around a race not being hard enough,” she said. “If a race hasn’t got mountains it doesn’t mean it’s not hard enough, it just means that you’re a climber and you’re disappointed because it’s a race for sprinters.
“I just think the Olympics for the men suits a climber and the Olympics for the women suits an all rounder, so as an all rounder I’m pretty happy!”
In 2018 Deignan was the first rider named to the new Trek-Segafredo women’s squad, which made its debut in the 2019 season. Deignan had previously raced for the Dutch Boels-Dolmans squad, and credits the change in teams for reinvigorating her enthusiasm for pro cycling.
Trek-Segafredo started the season on a high note, winning a stage of the Tour Down Under in January. The squad had to wait until May for its first WorldTour victory, when Tayler Wiles won stage three of Emakumeen Bira in Spain.
The next day, teammate Elisa Longo Borghini won the race’s overall. The victory kicked off a series of high points for the American squad. In June, Deignan went on a tear, winning the queen stage and the overall at the OVO Energy Women’s Tour on British roads.
“Obviously I had a bit to do with it, but that was a real team performance, a real representation of how strong the team was,” she said. “[All season] it was pretty impressive what we were able to pull off, we weren’t number one team in the world but that wasn’t the expectation.
“Internally everybody’s really delighted at the way it’s started, particularly the way we raced. If you’re not getting results because of bad team riding that’s one thing, but we’ve been racing for the win every time as a team and that means the results come.”
Deignan hails from Yorkshire, and the 2019 UCI world road championships was another major goal on her 2019 schedule. The race passed her high school and her parents’s house. The course finished in Harrogate, where she now has a house.
Though she made the group chasing lone leader and eventual winner Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands, Deignan was left frustrated, finishing only 31st.
“I was really disappointed with the result, but at the same time I think my performance was good I was right there where I needed to be,” she said. “I didn’t race that intelligently, but I raced for the rainbow rather than anything else.”
There was a bright spot in the effort, however. It was in Yorkshire that Deignan felt that she had returned to her physical peak since giving birth.
“There was eight of the best in the world off the front and I was one of them, and I was getting frustrated by how slow we were riding at one point,” she said. “Okay, my legs fell off at the end but to be there was pretty cool.”
In an August interview with Cyclingnews, Deignan said she planned to retire following the 2020 Olympics. Then, in September, Deignan backed away from the retirement plans, telling journalists that it was too soon to contemplate a step away from the sport.
Now, with a season in her legs and a better understanding of how to combine parenting and pro cycling, Deignan is remaining open-minded about her future in the sport.
“I’m just excited to have a season where it’s not decided by being a new mum,” she said. “We’ve got in the swing of things and physically I’m recovered from giving birth, so I’m excited about another season. And pretty open minded about what will happen at the end of it.”