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State of the Nation: Analysing Great Britain’s women’s 2021 World Championships team

Britain's Elizabeth Deignan (C) competes during the women's cycling road race at the Fuji International Speedway in Oyama, Japan, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 25, 2021. (Photo by Michael Steele / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MICHAEL STEELE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ahead of the 2021 UCI Road World Championships, Cyclingnews is taking a deep dive into the key teams.

We've looked at the men's teams from the United StatesGreat Britain and Australia, now it is time to analyse the Great Britain's women's team. 

History

Great Britain's Lizzie Deignan has been one of the sport’s consistent top performers for most of the last decade but it’s been six years since she won her first and only rainbow jersey in the elite road race at the UCI Road World Championships in 2015 on the streets of Richmond.

She has come close on several occasions. The best place at the event since her win in 2015 has been fourth in Doha in 2016, and sixth in Imola in 2020. A home event in Yorkshire in 2019 suited her well, but a tactical race saw Annemiek van Vleuten go on a 100km solo raid to win the world title and Deignan finished 31st.

Team GB has been largely built around Deignan since her compatriot Nicole Cooke, former world champion and Olympic gold medallist, retired in 2013. 

This year’s team is missing the powerful Hannah Barnes and Lizzy Banks, who suffered a concussion in a crash at Strade Bianche this spring, but it includes some of the most exciting up-and-coming prospects in women’s cycling.

Line-up

  • Lizzie Deignan
  • Anna Shackley
  • Alice Barnes
  • Anna Henderson
  • Pfeiffer Georgi
  • Joss Lowden

Key riders

The six rider team representing Great Britain in the road race at this World Championships is built around Lizzie Deignan with a support team of some of the best young riders and emerging talents coming through the ranks. They shouldn't be underestimated as all of them compete in support roles for some of the top teams in the world.

Deignan is the team's best chance at winning the world title. She came into the season with a focus on the Spring Classics, Olympic Games, and the World Championships, and she is on track to reach a third fitness peak of the season. She has the experience of winning a title before, and she knows what she needs from a team to do it again.

Anna Henderson, 22, showed her strengths as a support for Deignan in Yorkshire and in Imola, and she has really progressed on her trade team Jumbo-Visma where she often rides in support of Marianne Vos. She has also been given the chance to grow into a lead rider at the lower-level races where she has seen success with third overall at Baloise Ladies Tour and won the overall title at Tour de Belle Isle en Terre.

Anna Shackley, 20, competed in her first elite women's road race at the World Championships in Imola where she finished 25th. She burst onto the Women's WorldTour this year having signed with the powerful Dutch team SD Worx, and followed that with her first-ever participation at the Olympic Games. She's a strong climber and shows her great teamwork ethic in the biggest races in the world riding in support of riders like Anna van der Breggen.

Alice Barnes is the nation's road champion and although she is still only 26, she has been racing at the highest level of the sport for four seasons with Canyon-SRAM. She has competed in the road race at the World Championships every year since 2014, with the exception of 2018 and 2020, and brings experience to the six-rider squad.

Pfeiffer Georgi, 20, is one of the young talents racing for Team DSM. She's a strong time triallist and a great lead-out rider but she has also had her own success with a win at La Choralis Fourmies Féminine and she won the youth classification and finished sixth overall at the Simac Ladies Tour.  

Joss Lowden, 33, is currently racing for Drops-LeCol but she has signed a two-year contract with the new Uno-X women's team that is expected to secure a WorldTeam licence in 2022. 

She had a successful season this year placing fifth at Brabantse Pijl, a course that is similar to the one offered at Flanders Worlds, and then winning a stage along with the overall title at the recent Tour de Feminin. She unofficially broke the current hour record of 48.007km, held by Vittoria Bussi, in a training attempt, covering 48.160km, and will attempt to break the official Hour Record during the autumn.

Strengths

This team is focused on its one leader Deignan and they can develop a strategy that suit that narrative in the race. She is a proven champion and has had strong performances this season in her approach to the World Championships.

When it comes to support riders Shackley, Barnes, Henderson, Georgi have experience in this role on their WorldTour trade teams, and so when it comes to setting pace, bringing back breakaways or getting in early breakaways, these riders understand the importance of team work geared toward one leader. That said, all of them are strong enough to play a significant role in the race, be a part of decisive moves, and race among the front group.

Lowden is a team leader in her own right at the second-tier Drops-LeCol team but her strengths in the time trial will make her an asset to the overall goal of supporting Deignan to a world title.

Weaknesses

Putting 100 per cent effort into one rider leaves no wiggle room for error especially when up against teams like the Netherlands that have eight potential winners. 

The team also doesn't have the same level of depth, and while Deignan is certainly strong enough to race into a select move or in the final, much of her success could depend on how any teammates she has to help her at the end of the 157km race. 

The team is strong but three riders are in their early 20s and might lack the tactical experience of a more seasoned team.

The view from Great Britain

Dani Christmas - commentator, GCN and Eurosport

The GB team come into this Flanders World Championships fielding a strong team of riders with Lizzie Deignan at the helm. The 2015 World Champion always performs well in the championships and coming off the back of a big block of racing in the Tour de l'Ardèche we will hopefully see her hitting peak form.

British cycling is witnessing the emergence of young British talent with the likes of Anna Henderson (22) and Pfeiffer Georgi (20) fast becoming forces to be reckoned with, both with recent UCI wins to their names. Anna Shackley (20) has been learning her trade with world number 1 team, Team SD Worx, together with National Champion Alice Barnes, they present a number of cards to play. 

It is a shame that GB didn’t send a team to the recent European Championships giving the riders a further opportunity to gel as a unit before the World Championships. As professionals they will know exactly what is expected of them, but as a new combination of riders, it could have been beneficial to have worked together as a collective prior to the race for the rainbow bands

Joss Lowden's impressive performances over the hilly terrains see her join the GB team for the first time in the road race. Despite not having prior experience in the cobbled classics, as a TT specialist she can bring a huge amount of fire power to the team.  

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.