Lizzie Deignan remains focused on her ambition to win a second rainbow jersey at the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships, saying “it’s too early to announce a retirement.”
The 30-year-old will lead the British squad in the elite women’s road race on Saturday (September 27), which will be a memorable moment for Deignan as the race passes through her home town of Otley.
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Amid reports that Deignan was planning to retire next year, she has now said its too soon to announce the end of her career as she targets the World Championships and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic road race.
“My plan is to do the World Championships and then to re-focus on the Olympic Games,” she said.
“Post that, that’s where the plan stops honestly.
“But at this moment in time it’s too soon to announce a retirement because anything can happen between now and then.
“One World Championships and Olympics at a time.”
The Yorkshire 2019 World Championships will be a special occasion for Deignan, as the race passes her parents’ house and she’ll face walls of home crowds cheering her on.
“It’ll just be surreal,”she said.
“It will be a ‘pinch me’ moment.
“I’m just trying to embrace the World Championships. Like normally I wouldn’t watch races, I’d stay in my room and not do too much, but I’ve kind of taken a different approach this time, soaking it up and enjoying the atmosphere, just enjoying it.
“It’s part of the people in my life’s everyday consciousness as well. Normally for them the Worlds build-up is maybe the night before, they’ll give me a ring and say ‘good luck tomorrow’, whereas I think for my friends and family and the local community it’s been a bit of a build-up, so there’s more pressure than normal, just more excitement around.”
Deignan already knows the feeling of pulling on the rainbow jersey, one of the most coveted titles in cycling, after she won the World Championships in Richmond back in 2015, beating the likes of Anna van der Breggen (Ned) in a sprint.
But Deignan faces a changed peloton in 2019, after she returned from racing after a year absence, having given birth to her daughter Orla.
“I’m as good as I’ve ever been physically and I’m really proud of that, that’s taken a lot of hard work and determination to get back to that point, but that doesn’t mean I’m in the same position that I was in 2015 where I had the same power.
“The women’s peloton has moved on so although I’m back to my best, or the best I’ve ever been, it’s a completely different peloton now so I’m going to have to be better than I’ve been before on Saturday to win that title.
“I only took a year off and I would say there has been a huge jump in the amount of women at the top tier of the sport. It’s welcome, I think it’s great that there’s so many different winners now and more women able to be professional in every sense of the word. It did surprise me in such a short space of time.
“It’s about having finances and support to do training camps, to have physio, to have osteos [osteopaths], nutritionists, all those elements that make up a professional athlete are accessible to so many more women now which is obviously great.”
Deignan has still proven herself as a favourite for the Worlds, winning stage five of the Women’s Tour and taking the general classification in the process back in June.
But what is the biggest hurdle between Deignan and a second world title?
“Team dynamics in the race,” she said.
“Tactically it’s going to be a tough race. The Dutch are just a powerhouse because they have so many women who can win the world title and I don’t think we match them in terms of our team strength.
“I think they are our big challenge.”