YORKSHIRE-BASED rider Lizzy Banks has pledged to come back stronger after an ill-fated experience in her home UCI Road World Championships.
The 28-year-old arrived at the start of the women’s elite race, in Bradford, with good form and high hopes of helping Great Britain team-mate Lizzie Deignan to the second rainbow jersey of her glittering career.
Instead, Banks was unable to complete the full 149.4 kilometre route to Parliament Street in Harrogate.
There was no shame in that; of the 152 riders from 49 nations who began the race, only 88 finished, but Banks fell victim to the cruelest luck.
I was actually going all right on Lofthouse, but unfortunately my spare bike had problems with gears and I couldn’t change gear.Lizzy Banks
Dogged by a series of mechanical problems, it was the bike – rather than her legs – which forced her to abandon.
The hardest part was not knowing what she could have achieved with better fortune.
The race was dominated by Dutch legend Annemiek van Vleuten who broke clear of the peloton on the Lofthouse climb, 104km from the finish, and rode alone to a magnificent victory.
Banks’ role was to assist Deignan, rather than as a contender herself, and she felt the Otley-based former champion would have had a greater chance of standing on the podium had she been able to stay with her for longer.
Looking back on a “tough day in the office, Banks said: “I had three mechanicals and a bike change before 25k. I was chasing three times, then I got on my spare bike and had another mechanical on that.
“It was a really tough thing, but it is part of sport. You get knocked down and you get up again and getting up from that adversity is what makes you stronger. I have to get over myself because Lizzie also had a tough day and it was about her, not about me.”
World championship races are notoriously long and difficult and competitors often choose to climb off rather than face further punishment once they have done their job for the team leader or seen their own prospects disappear.
In Banks’ case, she said: “It wasn’t that I decided to call it a day.
“I was actually going all right on Lofthouse, but unfortunately my spare bike had problems with gears and I couldn’t change gear.
“Groups would come past and I couldn’t get on them because I couldn’t get into the right gear.
“I actually ended up going back on to my first bike and by that point the race had gone.
“It is frustrating when you feel really strong and you get this opportunity to represent your country, but I think it was a tough day for everybody.”
Once van Vleuten had disappeared into the distance, Deignan led the chase, but received little help from the riders around her who were, instead, saving themselves to battle for silver and bronze.
The Yorkshire woman’s effort eventually told and she dropped away to finish 31st, at five minutes and 20 seconds behind the new champion.
“She was super-strong and nobody would work with her,” said Banks of her team-mate.
“It was incredibly frustrating for her as well. It was a tough day for the whole team, we did have a strong team, but we weren’t as strong as the Dutch.
“Everyone knew the Dutch were the favourites, but it was one of those things; it was a tough day to have a tough day.”
When the disappointment fades, Banks will reflect on the experience of riding in a world championships, in front of huge crowds, on local roads.
“It’s really difficult when things go wrong, because you are trying to enjoy it,” said Banks, who was born in Worcester but is based in Sheffield. “But the reception we had in Bradford, I have never experienced anything like it. We got on the podium and they said Lizzie Deignan’s name and the roar from the crowd, we all almost burst into tears because it was so emotional hearing that support for Lizzie and the GB team.
“Everybody was out on the roads screaming, the crowds were 10-deep all over. It was incredible to see the support for women’s cycling.”
The peloton allowed Banks and Deignan to lead through Otley, past the latter’s parents’ house and Banks said: “It was the last bit of work I could do for the team, which is upsetting, but that was a special moment.”