Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) said that she felt nervous for the first time in a long time as she put on her first race jersey in more than a year. Deignan made her return to racing following her maternity leave at the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday and has since ridden Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Over the winter, Deignan said that she felt like a junior again as she prepared for the new season. After over a decade as a professional, it was good to feel the nerves on the start line again.
"Oh yeah, I was really nervous, which was nice because I'd not been nervous for quite some time and it showed that it meant something to me, which was really nice," Deignan told Cyclingnews. "I was really excited and I already feel part of the team, which is really nice."
After giving birth last September, Deignan had given herself a deadline of June to return to racing, with a view to being in form for the world championships in her home county of Yorkshire. However, she had indicated that she could come back earlier if she felt that she was ready and a recent change in circumstance meant that she was able to increase her training.
"Just very recently," she said when asked when she'd made the decision to come back early. "I stopped breastfeeding about three weeks ago, so that gave me some extra freedom to add in some extra intensity. I knew that I could only come so far myself without having that race fitness and other people to push me."
Deignan was very much thrown into the deep end on her return, taking on the Ardennes Classics. She finished second in all three of them in 2017, and though she wouldn't be in contention for the podium on this occasion, she has helped her Trek-Segafredo team to ride aggressively. Returning to racing has also allowed her to see the development of women's racing close up.
"I had no idea what to expect, to be honest. I knew that my baseline fitness was good but I knew that race rhythm would be a stretch too far in terms of fighting for the win," Deignan said. "I'm really pleased that I'm able to contribute to the team. I'm also really pleased to see that women's cycling has moved on. The top 20 is so deep now in terms of their performance. It's exciting and also it pushes everybody to up their game and their level, so it's a really positive thing."
Deignan has a packed schedule on her return and she will race the Tour de Yorkshire next week before heading across the pond for the Tour of California.