Lizzie Deignan makes it to number nine in our countdown of the 100 Best Road Riders of 2016
9. Lizzie Deignan
27, Great Britain, Boels-Dolmans
2016 wins: 10
If ever a rider had a season of two halves it was Lizzie Deignan (née Armitstead), beginning 2016 as world champion, winning in dominant style and finishing it as a super domestique.
Other than Marianne Vos, not for years has a world champion so conclusively proved the curse of the rainbow jersey as fantasy.
So strong was Deignan at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad a solo break saw her win almost by accident, and she followed that with four more victories from eight starts, including a memorable win at the Tour of Flanders, where she beat Emma Johansson by inches.
A stage and overall victory at June’s Aviva Women’s Tour were Deignan’s final solo victories of the year, and just weeks later she was engulfed in controversy when it emerged she had successfully appealed a suspension for missing three out of competition tests.
The saga clearly took an emotional toll on the Yorkshire woman, though we may never know whether it affected her Olympic performance.
Prior to the Games she downplayed her position as a favourite. “I don’t get caught up in the expectations that other people put on me,” she said during the Aviva Women’s Tour.
“Going into Rio we have a lot of medal contenders and hopefully I’m one of them.”
Though she was unable to make the winning selection, her fifth place, just 20 seconds behind winner Anna van der Breggen, was a creditable result.
Prior to the world championships, where months of training for the hills of Rio doubtless blunted her sprint, the 27-year-old found herself repaying her teammates for their work earlier in the year.
Her selflessness even at races like GP Plouay – which she won last year – personifies the togetherness which has powered Boels-Dolmans’ stellar year which closed with the team time trial gold medal in Doha.
Whatever the controversies of Deignan’s year, there can be no argument her performances firmly established her as one the most capable performers in the women’s peloton.