Increased prize money shows respect, says Lizzie Deignan

Speaking at the route presentation for this year's Ovo Energy Women's Tour, 2016 race winner Lizzie Deignan has welcomed the increase in prize money.

As well as seeing out the 2018 race route, organisers Sweetspot today announced the total prize fund for this year's race will increase from €35,000 to €90,000 (£80,600, USD111,700), bringing it in line with the Tour of Britain, the equivalent men's race organised by the same company.

This year's general classification winner will bag €14,460 (£12,900, USD17900), the same as the winner of the men's race, with stage sums also identical, something Boels-Dolmans rider Deignan believes is all about respect.

"Ovo are investing which sends out the message that they respect me as much as they do my counterpart man," she said after the launch event at London's Houses of Parliament.

However, 2015 world champion Deignan believes the race is already so well established at the top of the sport that increased prizes cannot attract more of the world's top riders, as they already want to ride.

"There are certain races in the year, like Flanders for instance, where you're up for selection and the Women's Tour is now one of those. I think the prestige of the event is definitely high and it's not like a rider thinks there's loads of money there, I can go there and race, but it's definitely an incentive in terms of the level that race is on.

"The spectators, the media coverage and just the general approach, there's no excuses being made.

"Sometimes a race can be a support race and this isn't, this is a standalone event where everything has been thrown at it and it has been done really well."

Race organisers have set a 2018 parcours they hope will build to a climax in the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia on the final day. Over the years Sweetspot have developed the event incrementally, each edition harder than the last, and this year is set to be the toughest yet, with more climbing than any since the race was established in 2014.

"There were reasons when [previous editions] the course was flatter," Deignan continued. "The more you delve into these things you understand races come up against problems, but year on year they [Sweetspot] have developed the race and we're at a point where now it is one of the hardest races on the calendar. Last year I thought the race was harder than the Giro, even without the heat.

"Anything can happen in the UK, it often depends on the weather, you have to be ready as every single day could turn into the queen stage. If it pours down on a flat day with crosswinds it could be the GC day. It is so unpredictable."

Though expected to race at last weekend's Strade Bianche, where she had finished on the podium in all three previous editions, Deignan is yet to race in 2018. She will, however, begin her season in Italy later this month at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the one-day Women's WorldTour race near Milan.

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