Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) is thankful to have had two months of racing under her belt before taking on the OVO Energy Women's Tour held from June 10-15. Deignan took time off to give birth to her first child last fall and had initially scheduled to rejoin the peloton in June at the British Women's WorldTour event, but instead took an earlier start at the Ardennes Classics. She expects the race to be more challenging than in previous editions.
"This race was my first idea of when I would return to racing so I've come back earlier than expected, and thank goodness because this would be a pretty brutal beginning," Deignan said in a team press release.
Deignan returned to racing at the three Ardennes Classics and then competed in the Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of California. She told Cyclingnews in California that she had planned to race through the OVO Energy Women's Tour to build high-end form ahead of her main target at the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire in September.
"I'm going to take a rest after this race, so this is the last block of racing for me before I have a rest."
Organisers of the OVO Energy Women's Tour announced that they have added a sixth stage and a first-ever mountaintop finish, which will be held on stage 4 at Burton Dasset Country Park.
"I think like always we're going to have to be very prepared for the unpredictability of the stages," Deignan said. "The only thing we can be sure of is that the first stage is flat and from there on in we have to be prepared for anything because I think those Welsh stages will be really difficult.
"I think our team is really focused on having the opportunity every night on TV to showcase Women's cycling; we'll be aggressive and make the racing interesting, and normally that leads to victory."
Deignan pointed to stage 2's 62.5km race at the Cyclopark Gravesend as one of the only sprint stages. It is a pan-flat circuit with intermediate sprints at laps 10, 15 and 20.
"I think it's going to be really painful," she said. "It's been about 15 years since I've done a criterium, I might be in trouble. It's going to be fast, technical and aggressive. There will be lots of accelerations and I think it'll be a hard stage."
Deignan won the overall title at the OVO Energy Women's Tour in 2016 and looked back on that victory as being extra special given it was on home soil.
"I think winning overall for me was a huge deal. I'd never won a stage race before – I barely finish stage races normally, so to finish it and win it was very special. I think I probably had some of the strongest legs of my career at the Women's Tour that year, and to race in front of a British crowd is always incredibly special for me."