With the infamous classics season underway and some of the sport’s toughest, most unforgiving courses in the calendar still to come, how has Wattbike Ambassador Lizzie Deignan fared through a long winter of training, post Olympics?
Set against the additional weight of expectation that will inevitably come with competing in front of home crowds, friends and family as the Tour de Yorkshire rolls in at the end of the month, we asked Otley’s star cyclist how she’s feeling about the year ahead.
Last year was extraordinarily busy for so many athletes. How’s the off-season training been going and how are you feeling about your 2017 racing campaign?
The off season was busy as it always is post Olympics. I got married and enjoyed spending time with family and friends. I had a couple of low points in the winter but making sure I planned mini breaks and warm weather camps got me through those times. The return of my training partner, Tiffany, from Australia was also a boost. It’s nice to have somebody to meet and keep me company on the long rides. There are areas which I had hoped would go better in training. I was unfortunate with illness and injury but I was patient and I came out of the winter well. I’m excited about 2017.
You snapped a picture training on the Wattbike on a stormy day at home in Monaco –complete with bobble hat! How has the Wattbike been an advantage to you over the winter?
I was wearing an Irish flag bobble hat - it’s my husband, Phil's! I have a World Champs bobble hat too, but the stripes belong to Amalie now so my hat has been retired to the wardrobe, for now at least!
The Wattbike has been an advantage because I’ve been able to use it during bad weather but also for specific sprint sessions. It's unusual to find a flat road here that isn't busy with traffic so I can create some real quality sessions on the Wattbike, in safety too which is a bonus.
The Wattbike is designed to replicate the feeling of riding on the road, which is an advantage because riding outdoors isn’t always possible or what’s best for training progression. Why do you think it’s important for cyclists to think about structuring some indoor training and measuring it over the winter?
Using the Wattbike for specific training is the best way to go when time and motivation in the winter can be limited. Measuring your progress with power can be really motivating. Tangible improvement is the most exciting part of my training. The Wattbike enables you to be time efficient, after a 10 minute warm up you can be straight into a quality session without having to consider darkness or traffic.
Last year was huge by comparison with your series of wins in the early season, a hilly course in Rio, capped by a superb rainbow jersey-winning performance in the women’s team time trial and of course…..your wedding! What are your key objectives for this year by comparison on the bike?
My key objectives are different to previous years. I am focused on the Ardenne classics. We have two new races and they are exciting as they don't quite suit me on paper but they are a new challenge and I need that. The Tour de Yorkshire goes off the back of that week so fits nicely in terms of an objective - of course I would love to win on home roads. The World title is again one of my biggest goals.
The Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team has progressed quickly to the top of world cycling, and the team says the victory last year at the World Team Time Trial which you helped to win, fulfilled a long-held dream for the team overall. What do you love most about riding for the team?
Its impossible to only give one answer. Every rider on the team is so driven. I enjoy being surrounded by a group of women who work so hard for their dreams and it’s inspiring to see the progression of some of my team mates. Building a team that works so well together is difficult, but whatever it is we seem to have got it. We trust each other and commit to the team winning no matter which rider we put on the top step. Our staff are passionate and committed to giving us the best opportunities and most of all we have an awful lot of fun, we collectively love cycling!
Are there any races that you’re particularly looking forward to this year?
I’m really excited about the Tour de Yorkshire. I know the route from training and it’s really tough, but it means my potential of being able to win is much higher. That would be so nice in front of friends and family at home.
You can count on us to be cheering you from the sidelines – we’re really looking forward to seeing you on your home turf again. Why is the event so special to you?
It’s an opportunity to show my family and friends the sport I love. We are still lacking the TV coverage we need in women’s cycling so it’s great that they can watch me without travelling too far. Yorkshire is hosting the 2019 World Championships, and the sport is really popular at home so there is always a great atmosphere at races.
We can’t leave without asking….how’s married life going with Mr Deignan, and should we expect some off-camera competitiveness through the race season?
Married life is great thank you! Me and Phil are both fairly unusual compared with other professional athletes – our competitiveness is only for the bike. Off it I would like to think we are both pretty laid back!
And, will the bobble hat be making any more appearances?
Ha ha! Maybe when I race in Belgium!