World champion Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) cannot fix all the current issues within women’s cycling but admits that she is aware of her responsibility within the sport as a role model and ambassador.
Women’s cycling has been under the spotlight in recent days due to revelations and allegations made by several high-profile riders. Jessica Varnish, Victoria Pendleton, Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley have all expressed concerns and claims centred around sexism and a ‘culture of fear’ at the core of British Cycling. The allegations have so far been denied but Shane Sutton the former Performance Director has stood down and an independent review has been set up.
Speaking just after Jessica Varnish lifted the lid last week, Armitstead told Cyclingnews that she accepted her role as a ambassador for women’s cycling but admitted that it at times had a taxing nature on her time.
“It doesn’t grate with me. I accept the responsibility,” she told Cyclingnews.
“I’ve always been someone who throughout my life will speak up. It’s tiring and it can cost me a lot of energy throughout the season because instead of being asked about my training or racing I’m asked a lot about women’s cycling."
One of the frustrations for Armitstead is that along with being a 100 per cent dedicated athlete at the top of the sport she is frequently asked for her opinion on how to improve, build and reform women’s cycling – a job the sporting governing bodies struggle with on their own.
“I’m asked a lot about the solutions but in a short interview I can’t produce a manifesto on how to fix all the problems women’s cycling faces,” Armitstead told Cyclingnews.
“That’s difficult because someone who reads the interview will always have an argument against what I’m saying but if you have a sit down debate with someone then you’re able to debate and discuss. I find that difficult in interviews.”
Armistead is set to make her return to racing after a week off the bike at the women’s Tour de Yorkshire on Saturday. The race starts in her hometown of Otley and although the race parcous is not entirely suited to her skills she will lead the line for Great Britain team.
Her year to date has been almost faultless with a string of high-profile victories backed up by a period of rest.
Armitstead is rare in that she coaches herself and doesn’t rely on a gaggle of coaches and scientists to feed her information or plan her precise training programme. It’s a decision she came to after moving from the track to the road. She does have a small knit team around her who help with her scheduling, off the bike duties and sponsorship, so that she can focus on the primary aim of being the world number one.
When asked about her control over factors including training, she said: “It’s the trait of a champion to be quite controlling. I’m lucky that with my agent, who I’ve been with since 2008, I have built up trust with them. Without them, particularly this year, I’d be lost.
“The training, that’s different because that’s part of who I am. That’s what I love and the other things are just stuff I have to do as a result of it. The coaches I’ve had in the past, they were track coaches and coming to the road there wasn’t that same coach so I had to find my own way. I’m probably not enough of a trusting person and I need to build up a relationship with someone and it has to be face to face.
"I’m not a good communicator so if I have a coach I need to be able to tell them everything I’m feeling. I don’t want to chat to someone on the phone about something that’s going wrong personally if I don’t really know that person. I don’t have that sort of time.”