Having claimed a debut World Cup success at the Ronde van Drenthe last weekend, British champion Lizzie Armitstead has set her sights on at the Tour of Flanders in a fortnight’s time and the inaugural Women’s Tour, which kicks off in eastern England on 7 May. Beyond that, the 25-year-old Briton has two more principal goals: the first-ever edition of the La Course by Le Tour in Paris on 27 July and the Commonwealth Games road race title a week later in Glasgow.
“I’m building towards the Tour of Flanders at the moment. My form is currently pretty good and now it’s all about adding another five per cent before we get to Flanders in a couple of weeks’ time,” Armitstead told Cyclingnews.
“In terms of prestige it’s second only to the Olympics and the World Championships. It’s our biggest Classic race. For me, the short and steep that you get in Flanders are definitely the best. They are very much like the roads I train on when I’m back home in Yorkshire.”
The Boels-Dolmans rider has looked sharp from the start of the season. Second on a stage at the Tour of Qatar and then third in Het Nieuwsblad, she bagged her first win of the year at the Omloop van het Hageland in early March and backed that up with her World Cup victory six days later.
Although now focused on Flanders, she also has the first edition of the Women’s Tour in the back of her mind. “The organisers have put a lot of effort into making it a race that’s on a par with the men’s Tour of Britain – same hotels, same prize money, etc. I’m hoping the women’s peloton see it as the next big race,” she said.
“Personally, I’m hoping for a stage win. I’ve heard that the course isn’t going to be that challenging, so it might be difficult for me to have a massive impact if there aren’t any tough climbs, but I can’t wait to race it. I think the Tour of Britain organisers have seen it as a sporting opportunity and as a business investment. I think women’s cycling is a growing business as well as a sport, and I hope that their model encourages other people to do it as well.”
It appears the Tour de France organisers have realised the same thing given their introduction of La Course, which will take place on the same day the men’s Tour de France reaches Paris. Armitstead acknowledges the new race is another one she is relishing.
“La Course will be part of my preparation for the Commonwealths. I think it’s fantastic. Some people have said that it’s only a one-day race and been negative about it. But, from my perspective, it’s great. It may only be a one-day race, but it will be in front of millions of people on the streets of Paris and watching on TV. I think it’s a massive step forwards for us,” Armistead said.
She continued: “I thought racing in front of that many people would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’d had at the Olympics, but it looks like it’s going to be something that can happen annually.”
Lizzie Armitstead is an ambassador for the Dare 2b Yorkshire Festival of Cycling on 4-6 July: www.festivalofcycling.org
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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