SPOTY: Lizzie Armitstead’s achievements second to none in a stellar year

Boels-Dolmans Lizzie Armitstead crosses the finish line to win the British Cycling National Road Championships in Lincolnshire.
Boels-Dolmans Lizzie Armitstead crosses the finish line to win the British Cycling National Road Championships in Lincolnshire.
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WERE it based purely on achievement, then you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has done more in her sport than Lizzie Armitstead in 2015.

The superstar cyclist has accomplished more than any of her fellow nominees for the BBC’s prestigious annual award, the Sports Personality of the Year. She is one of the many world champions on the list, alongside her fellow Yorkshirewoman Jessica Ennis-Hill, Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton and the controversial boxer Tyson Fury.

She can match Kevin Sinfield in winning his sport’s triple crown; her Super League Grand Final, League Leaders’ Shield and Challenge Cup being world title, overall World Cup winner, and the national champion.

She can also trump swimmer Adam Peaty, who won a hat-trick of gold medals in the world championships, and his fellow ground-breaker Max Whitlock, for claiming a very rare global gold at the world level in gymnastics.

Because for individual achievement sustained over a long period, then no-one on the list has had a finer year than Armitstead.

She won nine races in 2015, from February to September; from the Middle East to north America.

The first came in the desert in the Tour of Qatar and the last was the crowning moment of her entire career, victory on the roads of Richmond which saw her slip her arms into the fabled rainbow jersey of the world champion.

In between, there were three wins in the season-long World Cup series which were enough to earn her the title of overall champion, a notable feat she had achieved in 2014, the same summer in which she also added a Commonwealth Games gold medal.

And then closer to home, nobody could match her on the cobbled streets of Steep Hill in Lincoln as she regained her national crown in June.

Put simply, Armitstead is the queen of world cycling, has been for some time, and with a favourable course and a strong supporting cast – two elements it is looking increasingly like she will receive – the Olympic silver medallist will cement that status with gold in Rio next summer.

She may not win SPOTY tomorrow night, with Sinfield, Ennis-Hill, Andy Murray and Hamilton all bigger names garnering greater support, but her nomination is justification enough of a job well done in 2015.

“I’ve never thought about getting the nominationin training,” she said in an interview this week.

“It’s not like, ‘if I do this then maybe I can be on the SPOTY shortlist,’.”

Not that she is not humbled by it. For her, the award should go to Chris Froome for winning a second Tour de France, or Ennis-Hill.

Even the furore over Fury is not something that phases her.

British boxing’s recently-crowned world heavyweight champion has courted controversy with sexist remarks but Armitstead replied: “I’m happy to share a platform with him because it’s the panel’s decision to put him up there.

“As a female athlete I think it’s really important to stand up on a podium and represent females and what we’re capable of and I always try to make political statements with what I do rather than with headlines.”

As far as that goes, there is no-one who has done more for women’s cycling than Yorkshire’s Lizzie.

And as she reflects on 2015, she does so with one goal – to make 2016 even better.

“I have massive motivation to join the gold club – almost everyone in British Cycling it seems is an Olympic champion and I have only a silver,” added Armitstead.

“In cycling, the pinnacle is to become world champion and wear the rainbow jersey but in sporting terms to be able to say you’re Olympic champion, everyone understands it.”