The 2015 world champion from Otley has come away frustrated from some of her biggest targets in recent years – most notably the Olympic road race in Tokyo and the previous year’s road world championships in Yorkshire – after rivals effectively marked her out of the racing. But the 32-year-old accepts there is nothing she can do to prevent that happening again tomorrow.
“No, I wish there was,” she said. “I’ve come into this a bit more open-minded, I still have to have that tactic of being willing to lose it in order to win it and my tactic remains the same – I’m not happy with a top 10.
“It’s frustrating when other riders around me are happy with a top 10 but I understand it, not everyone has won a race and those are stepping stones for results for other people, but I just have to go in with the all-in attitude.”
The Belgian roads, tight and twisty with short, punchy climbs, appear to offer Deignan the best chance yet of reclaiming the rainbow jersey, more so than the punishing circuit around Imola in last year’s hastily rearranged championships.
“I think it’s going to be a really dynamic, interesting race,” Deignan said.
“I couldn’t tell you a point where it’s going to explode or what’s going to happen. I think it’s just a really open race.”
Deignan highlighted home favourite Lotte Kopecky, Danish duo Cecile Ludwig and Emma Norsgaard and her Italian trade team-mate Elisa Longo Borghini as the riders to watch beyond the obvious threat of the mighty Dutch.
Having been left isolated herself so many times in recent years, Deignan is also hoping the roads around Leuven play to the strengths of her team-mates, with Alice Barnes, Pfeiffer Georgi, Anna Henderson, Joss Lowden and Anna Shackley riding in support on Saturday.
“I think in this world championships the team is really important and we’ve got women here capable of going deep into the final,” she said. “For the first time in a few years we’ve got the ability to use our team to our advantage.
“In Imola the circuit was too hard and I was left on my own.”
“I expect Anna Henderson to be there at the thick end of the race and we have opportunities there as well.”
Flanders is the first of a double-header that has long been circled on Deignan’s calendar. Next week will see the inaugural women’s Paris-Roubaix - a race first announced last year but twice delayed amid the pandemic.
Alongside this summer’s announcement that a Tour de France Femmes will come next year, the running of Paris-Roubaix is a sign of the continuing growth of women’s cycling but, as ever, this week also brought a reminder of the challenges that must still be overcome.
Deceuninck-QuickStep team boss Patrick Lefevere caused controversy, not something he is any stranger to, when he dismissed the prospect of launching a women’s squad by saying he was not a charity.
That is fine with Deignan, too.
“I always take everything he says with a pinch of salt,” she said. “Actually I’m pleased he has no interest in women’s cycling because we have no interest in him.”