Lizzie Deignan targets return of women’s Tour De France as 2022 highlight

Lizzie Deignan has admitted she already cannot recognise the version of herself who had plans to retire from cycling just a couple of years ago.

MAGIC MOMENT: Lizzie Deignan wins  Paris Roubaix Women's Race 2021. Picture: CorVos/SWpix.com
MAGIC MOMENT: Lizzie Deignan wins Paris Roubaix Women's Race 2021. Picture: CorVos/SWpix.com

The 32-year-old is training with her Trek-Segafredo team-mates in Spain this week as she gears up for the 2022 season, looking to build on a superb 2021 when she won the first ever women’s Paris-Roubaix, finished fourth overall in the Giro d’Italia and rode to 11th in the Olympic road race.

But life would have looked very different for Deignan had she followed through on plans to walk away from the sport at the end of the 2020 season.

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“I’ve changed a lot,” the former world champion said. “I think everyone does, but probably maturity has a lot to do with it. Understanding and being incredibly grateful for the job that I get to do.

HEAVY GOING: Lizzie Deignan pictured during Paris-Roubaix Femmes Picture: CorVos/SWpix.com

“Being a professional athlete has its difficult times but you look around and realise that, in the middle of a pandemic, when people are struggling, I’m still getting to travel the world and still getting paid to ride my bike.

“It’s kind of ridiculous to ever think about ever walking away from that because of perceived pressures or whatever.

“I think maturity helps. You understand and appreciate what you’ve got. And I definitely do a lot more than I used to.”

Deignan said all thoughts of retirement have been pushed to one side as she looks forward to the new season, which will be highlighted by the launch of a new-look women’s Tour de France.

Tour organisers ASO have been under pressure for several years to re-introduce a women’s edition, and next year they will deliver a one-week race which follows on immediately from the conclusion of the men’s race in late July. Deignan hopes to one day soon see the women’s Tour expand to the same three-week length as the men’s edition but believes the planned route – eight stages starting in Paris and concluding with a summit finish on Super Planche des Belles Filles – is a great start.

“I think the women’s race will be quite dynamic (compared to the men’s),” Deignan said.

“Eventually there should be a three-week Tour de France for women, absolutely, there’s no reason why not. But I think starting somewhere is a good point.

“It’s not that the athletes aren’t capable of it. But it’s just everything else that goes around it.

“It’s not that easy to create the biggest race in the world. Hopefully that will come.”

Last season Deignan had made the first running of a women’s Paris-Roubaix her primary goal and delivered in style with a stunning solo victory on the brutal cobbles, her win quickly made famous by the blood left on her handlebars as she chose to ride without gloves.

Next year Deignan is eyeing the Ardennes Classics in the spring but has no one single target as she waits to discuss the calendar with sports director Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. There is no question, however, that the Tour will dominate the agenda.

“Obviously the Tour is huge,” Deignan said when asked about her goals. “It will depend on the team dynamic and what their expectations are, and I don’t know that yet.

“I’m keen to know what the team wants from me before I say that the Tour de France is a huge goal...

“I think the dynamic of the season (changes) with the Tour coming in and being such a massive goal for everybody, not just individual riders but teams and sponsors. They’re expecting a lot there and we have to plan a bit differently.”