CW’s Top British Riders of 2010: No. 5

Number 5: Lizzie Armitstead
Last year’s position: 4

Lizzie Armitstead is another rider whose versatility means the world is her oyster. There are so many opportunities ahead of the 22-year-old from Otley in the next couple of years, it’s going to take careful work to prioritise and make the most of them.

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She could be one of the stars of the 2012 Olympics. She could win on the track or the road.

Her debut season with the Cervélo team has seen her step up to a very high level.

However, it didn’t start too well. Her debut in Cervélo’s colours ended abruptly when she crashed in the crosswinds during the opening stage of the Tour of Qatar back in early February.

Fortunately it did not disrupt her preparation for the track Worlds too much and she was in good form in Copenhagen.

She joined up with Wendy Houvenaghel and Joanna Rowsell and finished a narrow second to the Australians. During the same competition, the British trio had to watch as their world record time was broken by the Kiwis. The level of competition has improved since it was announced that the team pursuit would be part of the 2012 Olympic programme.

Britain has a lot of strength in depth, with Rebecca Romero set to come into the team. Armitstead is definitely strong enough to be part of the team, but will things eventually lead her in the direction of the Omnium?

She took the silver medal behind Canada’s Tara Whitten in Copenhagen and is head-and-shoulders Britain’s best candidate for the discipline at the Olympics in a couple of years time. Armitstead is one of the smooth and most comfortable competitors in what can sometimes be chaotic bunch races on the track. She has the pursuiter’s engine but also the sprinter’s legs to be a world-class all-rounder.

Then again, another season and a half on the road will surely make her even stronger and if the Olympic road race comes down to a sprint, you could see her getting a medal, or even winning.

It has been a hugely impressive season on the road, considering it didn’t really get started until after the track Worlds. Armitstead won a stage at the Tour de l’Aude and Route de France in the summer and was part of the Cervélo team that steamrollered Nicole Cooke’s chances in the Nationals and set up Emma Pooley.

But it was at the Tour de l’Ardeche that she really excelled, winning three stages in a row and taking fourth place overall.

Armitstead followed that up by doing a great amount of work for Pooley and Cooke in the World Championship road race, while still managing ninth place in the sprint.

She was narrowly edged out of the sprint for gold in the Commonwealth Games, after being pipped by Rochelle Gilmore.

Next season Armitstead will ride for the Garmin-Cervélo team. One of the most interesting aspects of next season will be seeing what direction she takes. But one thing is for sure – some huge results are surely just around the corner.

Silver medal, team pursuit, World Track Championships (Copenhagen)
Silver medal, team pursuit World Track Championships (Copenhagen)
Stage win, Tour de l’Aude
Silver medal, National Road Race Championships
Stage win, La Route de France
Three stage wins, Tour de l’Ardeche
4th overall, Tour de l’Ardeche
9th World Championship road race
Silver medal, Commonwealth Games road race

Cycling Weekly’s Top British Riders of 2010 advent calendar: We will reveal one rider per day behind the virtual doors of our sparkly advent calendar from Wednesday December 1 to Christmas Eve, Friday December 24. The top eight will then be revealed in Cycling Weekly magazine’s final issue of the year, which will be in the shops on December 30 2010.

Related links

CW’s Top British Riders of 2010 advent calendar

Cycling Weekly’s top 30 British riders of 2009

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