Lizzie Deignan announced her return to the sharp end of racing last week, winning the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour, nine months after the birth of her first child Orla. But a candid radio replay shows how hard she had to dig for victory.
The former world champion attacked with her Trek-Segafredo team mate, Elisa Longo-Borghini.
From TV screens, Deignan’s winning move on the incline of stage five’s final climb, Wale’s Epynt, looked effortlessly powerful. But the authentically gritty radio playback shows the 30-year-old was anything but assured of success.
“I stand up and there’s nothing in my legs. I’m empty of sugar and I can’t eat enough.
“If they really go, I will not be able to go, I think,” Deignan agonised into the radio.
Deignan was speaking to Team DS and prolific sprinter, Ina Teutenberg, before the winning move – as the reduced peloton wrestled with the Queen stage of the hilliest ever edition of the race.
Deignan has been on the comeback trail since selecting April’s Amstel Gold Race as her first ride in anger since her season-plus long break, and the Women’s Tour marked a new goalpost in distance.
“[It was] first stage race of the season and my first stage race in over two years, so I really was expecting to feel worse and worse.”
“In the beginning, I felt terrible. I told my team mates I felt terrible, and every single one of them came to me and gave me some words of encouragement,” Deignan explains in a video produced by sponsor SRAM.
Describing the stage which saw her propelled from the Best British Rider to the leader’s jersey, she adds: “Abi [Van Twisk] went back to the car and got me a coke, and gels and sweets.
“[Team DS] Ina was doing her best psychology in the radio as well. I just thought ‘I’m not going to give up, I’m here for a reason, I’m going to keep fighting’.”