Lizzie Deignan: ‘The Olympics will be my biggest goal of the season’

The 31-year-old hopes to better her fifth place at Rio 2016

Following an offseason that has involved hiking in the Lake District, a spot of running as long is it doesn’t aggravate any knee injuries, and time spent chilling with the family at home rather than any massive holidays, Lizzie Deignan is ready for 2020 and knows what she wants from her season.

“The Olympics will be my biggest goal of the season next year,” Deignan tells Cycling Weekly. “My season will be tapered around that really, I went to see the course in Japan in July and I really liked it so I’m excited about that as well.”

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While the women’s course in Tokyo bypasses the Mount Fuji climb and the Mikuni Pass, a controversial decision that has not gone down well with riders, the 137km loop will still include 2,692m of climbing.

Deignan says it will be a tough race, likening it to the oldest Monument, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“Yeah, it’s a tough course and kind of a bit reminiscent of something like Liège, it’s a hard, hard classic,” Deignan said.

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Coincidentally, the rider Deignan finished runner-up to in the inaugural 2017 edition of the Belgian Classic also bested her in the Rio 2016 road racae, the Netherlands’ Anna van der Breggen. Deignan expects the Dutch to once again be the team to beat, yet is quietly confident of her chances to claim gold.

“They’ll have the strongest team, absolutely no doubt,” says Deignan. “But sometimes in the Olympics it’s an advantage to be racing on your own, it’s a totally different race, the peloton’s really small, so I think the team aspect will be lessened.”

It was the Dutch who spoiled the day when Deignan returned to home roads at the Yorkshire World Championships in 2019, with Van der Breggen finishing runner-up behind Annemiek van Vleuten, who rode a sensational solo effort to claim the rainbow bands.

Reflecting on that day, where Deignan hit out many times and took the race to her competitors, she is left with little regret: “With hindsight, tactically I wasn’t the smartest but I was going for the rainbow and I wasn’t interested in silver or bronze and I got nothing. But to be honest, basically I was in really good shape, where I was one of the best in the race.”

2019 was Deignan’s comeback year after taking time out to give birth to her daughter Orla, with her biggest result being the overall victory at the Women’s Tour. She says her second year as both a mum and racer will only improve her results.

“I feel like going into next season I’ve got an advantage because I’ve done a year of being a mum under my belt and so I think I know how to make it work together.”