‘I felt invincible': British riders reflect on racing World Championships on home roads

Yorkshire hosted the first Worlds on British soil since Goodwood in 1982

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

“I’m just so grateful to everybody that’s been a part of the championships,” said Lizzie Deignan, minutes after crossing the Harrogate finish line 10 miles away from her hometown.

“I’ll remember this day for the rest of my career.”

Deignan had just given everything in the elite women’s road race at the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships.

After a hard fought battle on the undulating roads of northern England, a route that took Deignan past her parents house in Otley, the 30-year-old finished 31st in her first Worlds since giving birth to her daughter Orla.

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“I didn’t win, but it’s been a phenomenal day,” Deignan said.

Yorkshire was the first time the Worlds had been raced on British soil since Goodwood in 1982, when Mandy Jones took victory.

Racing a World Championships in front of friends, family and fans on home roads is an opportunity riders can only hope for once in a career, at most.

“I’m shell-shocked to be honest,” said Anna Henderson, who rode in support of Deignan in the women’s road race. She also took home a medal for herself, forming part of the British mixed relay team time trial squad that took bronze on the first day of the competition.

“A home Worlds is a once in lifetime opportunity, so to have two good rides is all anyone could ever ask for.

“I was cramping at about 4km to go, but the crowd just kind of made it go away. I couldn’t feel my legs, I was just floating around.”

Tom Pidcock also secured a medal for the home team, when he took bronze in the under-23 road race.

The 20-year-old was devastated to have missed out on the rainbow jersey, but an emotional Pidcock, from nearby Leeds, reflected on the crowds at the finish: “We got in to Harrogate and every single person was cheering my name. It was quite unreal to be honest and I’ll never forget it.

“When I came into Harrogate with the crowd, I felt invincible.”

“The support on the road was unbelievable. I’ve never had anything like it.”

His words were echoed by Yorkshireman Ben Swift, who led the British squad in the elite men’s road race, which closed out the event.

“It was incredible,” said Swift, who suffered through six hours of racing in torrential downpours, finishing 31st, six minutes down on the winner.

“The atmosphere was building and building and I think it was amazing to see so many people in pretty bad weather.”

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Nikki Juniper may be from Brentwood in Essex, but the Yorkshire showed her just as much support as the local riders.

“It was just amazing,” she said. “I was like ‘do I ride my bike or do I get off and hug them?’

“Yorkshire really made you feel like they were your family. It was just overwhelming, I’m getting quite emotional.”

The British squad may have come away without a rainbow jersey, but the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships still offered countless cherished memories for both the riders and the fans at the side of the road.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.