The sky is the limit for Lizzie Deignan, who returns to racing eight months after the birth of her second child and continues to raise the bar for her own cycling career and pave the way for future athlete mothers across all sports.
The Olympic medallist and former world champion has revealed her hopes to compete at the upcoming Tour de France Femmes and World Championships in Glasgow, along with the Olympic Games in Paris next summer.
And there is no cap on her competitive dreams, also suggesting that if organisers RCS Sport launch women’s versions of Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia, she would attempt to add them to her tally of victories alongside Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, to capture all five of cycling’s Monuments.
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“The things that motivate me obviously the same objectives like the World Championships and Olympics, but it’d be exciting for me to take part in the Tour de France and also new opportunities that I hope are still going to come,” Deignan said ahead of Flèche Wallonne, her first race since October of 2021.
“I’m the rider with the most Monuments at the moment. So I’d like to try and go for new Monuments. We don’t have, or maybe we do, but we don’t know yet. Milan-San Remo and Lombardia. So I would love to be able to aim for five Monuments in my career, that would be special.”
Deignan won the road world title in 2015 and the Tour of Flanders in 2016, and then went on to show the world what athlete mothers can do when given the opportunity winning Liège-Bastigne-Liège and Paris-Roubaix, all after the birth of her first child in 2018.
Competing at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April was a surprise to Deignan, who initially planned on starting her comeback to racing at La Vuelta Feminina on May 1. However, due to illness and crashes among her teammates at Trek-Segafredo, the team asked if she could prepare to be ready for the final two Ardennes Classics.
“I planned to have a bit longer to prepare for and to start in the Vuelta. I just thought that would have been an easier, nicer transition. But you know, professional sport isn’t about what’s easier or nicer all the time. At the end of the day, I’m a teammate, and it’s important for me to support my teammates,” Deingan said.
“I could see that they were struggling in terms of filling the spots because of bad luck with crashes and sickness, and it would be silly for me to be at home training when I can get the same things I need from racing.
“It just means that I’m, obviously, not going to be as comfortable in starting or as prepared as I would have liked. But the Vuelta is only two weeks away. So it’s not like I’ve been called up two months early, it’s just two weeks.
“There’s a little bit of a gap in my preparation in terms of the real intensity that I would have liked to have had before these races, but I’ll just use the races for intensity. There’s no pressure on me to be there in the final or to have a result. It’s really about just doing what I can for the team, and I’m more than happy to do that.”
Deignan suggested that she and Lucinda Brand will be in support roles at both Ardennes events, while Elisa Longo Borghini, Shirin van Anjooij, Amanda Spratt and Gaia Realini will play more active roles as contenders in both races.
As for reunion with her Trek-Segafredo in Huy, Deignan said it’s felt “secure,” “safe,” and “welcomed back,” even if the cycling world seems somewhat unchanged in her absence compared to the magnitude of changes at home now managing a family with two children.
“It’s really strange to be back at the same hotel we always stay in. Like, you know, nothing has really changed here, but so much has changed in my life outside of it,” Deignan said.
“It’s nice and familiar, it’s like I’ve never been gone, really, I suppose. You know, it was just nice to see everyone with the same smiling and happy faces.”
Deignan feels prepared enough to start racing again but said that it’s taken a little longer to gain her power back this time due to a more challenging second pregnancy, though she expects it will return quickly once the racing begins.
“Physically, I’m good. Like training has gone well. And all of my endurance numbers are good. I feel physically fit, but in terms of the top-end, race-punch fitness, I don’t have that, and I cannot ignore that. I haven’t made those steps yet in training to be here to win a race. I hope physically that I’m strong enough to support the team,” she said.
She hinted at some curiosity about how her power and strength would stack up against competitors, given the growth in depth among the peloton since she last raced.
“It’ll be nice to see some of my competitors, but it’s just gonna be a brutal introduction for me, like, I’m not naive. It’s going to be difficult. So I don’t think I’ll be riding around chatting,” Deignan said.
She’s watched the races this spring where SD Worx have dominated the one-day racing with 11 victories and is curious to gauge her performances against the field throughout the rest of the Ardennes and into the bigger goals this summer.
“The last time I had a year away from racing, there was a definite jump in the strength of the peloton. I knew my numbers in training coming back were competitive in terms of comparison to myself, but it had dropped in terms of where it was in the pecking order in the peloton, so I’m curious to see if that’s happened again,” Deignan said.
As an athlete and mother, Deignan’s ability to manage a family and world-class cycling career has served as an inspiration to many other women in sports. Asked who inspires her, Deignan said she looked up to British rower Helen Glover.
Glover’s rowing career has spanned nearly 15 years and includes two gold medals at the Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016 and three world titles between 2013-2015.
“She’s got three kids under the age of three or something ridiculous. So yeah, I think, you know, she’s proven to be a phenomenal force to be reckoned with in rowing and a huge inspiration to me,” Deignan said.
In previous interviews, Deignan has said that she also looked up to now-retired American track and field athlete Allyson Felix as an athlete, mother and role model.
“I think something about managing the chaos of having more than one child, and it’s just helpful when you see that it is possible because there are moments, obviously, particularly in the middle of the night, where you think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and it’s great when there are examples that you can follow.”