Lizzie Deignan celebrated a “special and surreal” victory on home roads as she took her first win of the 2017 season at the Tour de Yorkshire, as she crossed the line solo in front of reams of fans in Harrogate.
Despite scoring a trio of second places at the three Ardennes Classics earlier this month, the 27-year-old former world champion had yet to get a win so far this year.
Yet the challenging parcours in Yorkshire – which covered the same route as stage two of the men’s race taking place later the same day – took many teams by surprise.
Combined together with Deignan’s unflinching desire to win on home roads saw this year’s race reduced to a bruising two-on-one slugging match between the eventful winner, her Boels-Dolmans team-mate Anna Van Der Breggen and Dani King (Cylance).
Deignan was born in Otley and grew up riding and training on the same roads the race covered.
Having forged a split shortly after the day’s only classified climb, Olympic champion Van der Breggen and Deignan drove the pace for much of the second half before the Dutchwoman dropped back and Deignan attacked King with around 10km to go to finish on her own, 55-seconds ahead of the chasing bunch.
“It’s special and surreal,” effused Deignan, grime-streaked and emotional, post-race. “I still can’t quite get my head round how I’m feeling — it’s really, really good.”
“The chase group was coming pretty close and my director actually said ‘wait for the sprint as you’re coming back’ and I’m like ‘no I’m not waiting for the sprint — I know this race better than you and it’s not coming back!’ So I took advantage of one of the little kickers and I went for it.”
With its single classified climb — the Cote de Lofthouse at the halfway point — the 122.5km course looked relatively benign on paper, and many were predicting a bunch sprint.
But with a constant succession of drags and ramps in the second half, it suited Deignan down to the ground.
While King, carefully biding her time in the wheels, on occasions looked her equal, the Yorkshirewoman clearly had the bit between her teeth and her sights set on a home victory.
“I had really strong legs,” she said afterwards, “and obviously I had the home inspiration and that makes a big difference.”
Despite being caught by the sizeable second group, King still finished 10th, and was pragmatic after coming so close.
“I’m really pleased with my ride, being able to follow Lizzie and Anna,” she said. “Then obviously they started working together just trying to get rid of me. Lizzie stopped working and Anna told me to keep going through… stupid me did that, then Lizzie attacked me. I couldn’t follow her then.
“It’s bike racing. I’m still learning so much, I’m just pleased to be there to be honest,” she said, adding: “It’s my favourite place to race the UK – it’s such an incredible atmosphere.”
Van Der Breggen, who finished 17th, had clearly had a very hard day out: “It was a really nice race but so hard, one of the toughest races this season I think. I suffered a lot today.
“[The support] was pretty amazing. I’ve never seen a race like it, in every town there were so many people screaming,” she said.
A reduced bunch of 10 riders led the chase home behind Deignan, with American Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb), who won the Women’s Tour of Flanders at the start of this month, in second and Wiggle-Honda’s Giorgia Bronzini in third.
Women’s Tour de Yorkshire 2017
1. Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Boels-Dolmans
2. Coryn Rivera (USA) Team Sunweb, at 55 secs
3. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle-High5
4. Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels-Dolmans
5. Hannah Barnes (GBr) Canyon-SRAM, at same time
6. Katrine Aalerud (Nor) Hitec Products, at 59 secs
7. Sheyla Gutierrez (Esp) Cylance Pro Cycling
8. Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
9. Roxane Knetemann (Ned) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
10. Danielle King (GBr) Cylance Pro Cycling, at same time