When Lizzie Deignan and Lizzy Banks crossed the line first and second at GP Plouay it was the first time two British women completed such a feat at a Women’s WorldTour race.
Not only that, but Deignan’s win made her the most successful rider in the race’s 19 editions. With three victories she is now one ahead of compatriot Emma Pooley, Noemi Cantele and even the great Marianne Vos.
As she warmed herself behind the podium the Trek-Segafredo rider told the UCI: “I know Lizzy Banks is a very strong rider and she was showing me that in the breakaway. I didn’t feel like I was the stronger of the two of us, and I’ve never sprinted against Lizzy before and I was nervous until I crossed the line.”
Coming together after Banks’s Paule Ka team-mate, Marlen Reusser had been caught, they were initially joined by Boels-Dolmans’ Jip van den Bos, though the Dutchwoman crashed on a slippery corner, nearly taking Deignan with her.
With the British pair up the road the chase stalled, and it was only when world champion Annemiek van Vleuten returned to the bunch after being held up behind a crash the peloton seemed to take the threat seriously. However, by the time Mitchelton-Scott’s world champion led a 10-woman group in pursuit the two Brits had a lead of around one minute.
“Lizzie and I worked really well in the breakaway, we were really evenly matched on the climbs and the flats, we didn’t have to say anything to each other we just got on with the job,” Banks told us, explaining they were never able to take the success for granted.
“There wasn’t that much information race radio. At the end my team director actually thought it was all back together and he thought I was sprinting in the bunch rather than off the front with Lizzie, so it really wasn’t clear what was going on!
“Because of the unreliable race radio it was only clear that right in the last couple of kilometres that it was going to be me or Lizzie. I knew I was going to have come from behind so I ended up taking second. Of course I wanted to win, but coming second to Lizzie Deignan is nothing to be ashamed of.”
While the lack of home riders heading to the Tour de France has created some pessimism about the future or British cycling in some quarters, the women’s sport remains on a steep upward curve.
For years Deignan has been the top British woman, and while that remains the fact, others are on the way up. On the back of a Giro Rosa stage win last year, Banks has had an excellent season and is arguably second in the pecking order, but is also one of a number performing in the world’s top teams.
“This is obviously really great for British racing, and going into the European Championships on Thursday it shows that we do have strength,” Banks explained. “We have prolific winners like Lizzie Deignan, but we also have a huge amount of talent coming through, both coming into the WorldTour with Anna Henderson, Pfeiffer Georgi (both Sunweb), Jess Roberts (Mitchelton-Scott), but also the under 23 riders and the talented riders in the UK.
“I think the future of British women’s racing is looking bright.”