Lizzie Armitstead is streets ahead of any other British rider in women’s cycling, according to Laura Trott.
Armitstead took a commanding road race victory at the British nationals in Lincoln on Sunday, launching an attack on the penultimate cobbled climb of Michaelgate, with Trott claiming the bronze medal. It was a direct reverse of last year, when Trott claimed the jersey ahead of Armitstead in third.
Trott had held Armitstead’s wheel over the initial climbs of Michaelgate but she and the rest of the peloton had no response when Armitstead made the decisive move.
"She’s just completely in a league of her own," Trott told reporters after crossing the line. "She would be though in a way, because she’s the world's best at the minute, none of us are nowhere close to that. We’d be lucky to get a top-20 in a UCI race. She really is just a class above the rest of us.
“It started off all right and I didn’t feel too bad, but it was just two laps too long for me. Coming up the hill for the second to last time Lizzie went and that was it, there was just no following, she was just in a league of her own."
Given the nature of the course, Trott was never going to be the favourite to defend her title. The repeated climbs of the cobbled Michaelgate, 300 metres long with a 1/6 gradient, were far better suited to Armtistead than someone who is predominantly a track racer.
“That hill just didn’t suit me at all. Just not my thing. If it was flat, if it was like the big circuit, the 40km loop I’d have been fine, we just rolled round that and I could have hoped for a sprint. But that [Michaelgate] is just something else isn’t it! Everybody said treat it like an elimination race and I’m like ‘oh yeah because I have to go up a hill like that in an elimination race'.
“I kind of just hoped for the best and rolled round, and coming into the sprint I tried to go up the inside and I probably should have gone round the outside but to be honest I didn’t really have the legs at the finish anyway, it was kind of just hope nobody overtook me."
Despite not being able to wear the national champion’s jersey on too many occasions, let alone secure a victory in it, Trott said she enjoyed the honour of being British champion. “Pretty average,” is how she sums up her season in the jersey, before reaffirming her preference for the boards over the tarmac.
“I don’t really do that much road so it’s hard to do it [the jersey] proud in a way. I’ve enjoyed riding in it. I guess I never thought I would ever win, so to win it last year just meant that I could obviously wear the jersey this year. It’s been good, I’ve enjoyed wearing it even if I haven’t done it proud I guess.
“I like the track, the track is where my heart lies, that’s what I’ve grown up doing and that’s where I want to stay. I just enjoy it a whole lot more than I do the road.”