Twelve months ago Lizzie Deignan went down fighting with a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful ride at her home World Championships in Yorkshire. A year on, she’s in Imola, Italy and ready to fight it out for her second rainbow jersey.
It certainly won’t be easy. The Dutch once again arrive as favourites, while there’s also more depth on the start list of the women’s road race than ever before. However, Deignan is banking on the British team having numbers in the latter stages of the race on Saturday when she predicts that the race will be decided in the closing three circuits.
“I think what's going to be different for us is having as many women in the final as possible. The last three laps will be crucial and I expect both Lizzy Banks and Hannah Barnes to be there, they've both shown they were in really good form in the Giro," Deignan said.
"It's hard for everyone to see what's going on, especially with Hannah, she was working for Kasia but she was clearly very strong in the Giro and of course, Lizzy has burst on to the scene with all these results and she's so positive on and off the bike and she's an exciting rider to race with. We need to be there and have the numbers, it's the only way we're going to beat the Dutch."
“I think I rode like somebody under pressure last year. Tactically I wasn't very smart. I spent far too much time on the front trying to chase down Annemiek van Vleuten. I should have spent more time in the wheels. This year I don't feel like the race rests on my shoulder. I can duck and dive and come out with the best result possible.”
Deignan has been in scintillating form since racing resumed in August. She won the GP de Plouay in a two-up sprint against Banks and then won a thrilling edition of La Course by Le Tour de France in Nice. She was a super domestique for most of the Giro Rosa but still notched a win with her Trek-Segafredo squad in the team time trial, and scored two more top 10s. Results wise, she’s not far off her 2015 form when she was fourth in La Course, won Plouay, and then went onto win the world title in Richmond in one of the best women’s races of the last decade.
"I was in a very fortunate position - I raced the Giro in a support role for Elisa Longo Borghini so there were days when I did my job and then rode into the finish easy, so I feel pretty fresh considering I've just come out of a stage race," Deignan said.
The route change from Switzerland to Imola for the UCI Road World Championships this year is also something that could tip the race in her favour.
“For Switzerland, I'd totally written it off, it wasn't a goal, I was completely focused on Tokyo [Olympic Games] because it was too mountainous, simply a climber's course," she added. "Up until two weeks [ago] I didn't even believe there would be a World Championships, so to be here with people saying it really suits me when I'd not considered a Worlds until two weeks ago is a bit weird."
Of the course, Deignan said, "I've not seen it yet, I'm going around it [Friday], it's a totally different feeling to a normal World Championships. Normally I would know every incline, I would know everything on the course and have prepared completely for it in training. It's just like another bike race this time around.”
While Deignan starts as the team’s main threat, Banks might also play a vital role in the outcome of the race. She was flying in the Giro Rosa, winning a stage for the second year straight, and generally maintaining her incredible upward trend in the race.
“I’ve just come from the Giro Rosa and I think I’ve shown there that I’ve got pretty good form. I’m climbing the best I’ve ever climbed in my life. I did have a crash on the final day of the Giro, which wasn’t ideal, and after a crash you always feel a bit stiff, but I think that the timing of the road race and the time trial are perfect to get the super-compensation after a hard race like the Giro,” Banks said.
Banks also believed that sharing responsibility with Deignan will be a wise tactic over such a demanding course.
"Lizzie and I are both very similar riders. We’ve got a really strong team here and she’s a really easy person to work with. The fact that our characteristics are quite similar puts us in a really good position for this race. It makes it more challenging for our rivals. I’m sure that our coach will come up with a great plan on the day," said Banks.
"She’s a proven winner and has won this race before. She knows what it takes and whatever happens, I’ll be fully in the service of the GB team. The course here really suits the British Cycling riders. I messaged Lizzie and told her that this was the perfect course for us. I truly believe that we can achieve something here. The Dutch are always hard to beat but I think that this is the best course possible for us.”
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