Lizzie Deignan says that she could make her racing return earlier than the June deadline she had set herself. Nearly two months into training after giving birth to her first child, things are progressing nicely and the former world champion says she might get itchy feet as she waits on the sidelines to get racing again.
Deignan, who will race with Trek-Segafredo in 2019, had her first child in September. She has her sights set on her home World Championships in Yorkshire next year and had placed a deadline of June to get back to racing so that she can be in shape for that.
However, she doesn't think she will be able to wait that long.
"I'm already really surprised with how I'm feeling on the bike," Deignan told Cyclingnews at Trek-Segafredo's training camp in Sicily last week.
"I've only been training for six weeks now but I think I'll probably be tempted to start racing before June. That's the latest that I've said. If I feel good, I can't see myself not racing earlier than that."
While she's eager to get back racing, Deignan is cautious about giving her body a proper chance to recover. While she was pregnant, she kept up regular training and was on the bike up until three days before she gave birth. Keeping as fit as she could during her pregnancy was important for her postnatal recovery.
"I was really conscious going into that period that prior to giving birth I was going to be at my best and that the period after giving birth would be the hardest," Deignan explained.
"I had six full weeks off the bike. Looking after a new-born baby is very hard work and I was very aware that I didn't want to rush back into things with my body. It's quite a traumatic thing to go through so I gave myself enough time."
During her maternity leave, Deignan admitted she had fallen out of love with cycling after 10 years as a professional. At times, she said, it felt like she was just going through the motions. However, the time out has given her a chance to rekindle the romance.
"I really love it again. It feels like I'm starting all over again. When I'm out on the bike, I feel like a junior again and that's really exciting," Deignan said.
"I've been doing professional cycling for the last 10-15 years of my life. That's been good, but I had come to a point in my life where it wasn't enough, and I needed something else. My husband and my baby at home are just magic and it makes everything… you're happy, and when I'm happy I race fast."
A new team and a new challenge
Deignan is not just getting used to life as a new mother but is coming into a new team upon her return. The Brit got her first opportunity to spend time with her Trek-Segafredo team at their training camp last week. She only spent a few short days there before returning home to her family, but it was a chance to get to know the people she would be working with over the coming year.
"It's nice to be looked after and to focus on the bike again. It's obviously been a life-changing couple of months. It's good to be somewhere where I can focus a bit," Deignan said. "I'm excited to meet everybody, the staff, the riders. I think that it's really important to spend time with my teammates because I won't get to race with them straight away. It's important to see them."
The Trek women's team will be one of the larger rosters in the women's peloton, with 13 riders in total. With size comes the ability to balance the team and that's what they've done, with a mixture of Classics riders, sprinters and climbers on the squad. Deignan had a small part to play in helping Trek choose their riders but she was happy to leave the selection process down to new directeur sportif Ina-Yoko Teutenberg.
"I think it's really important to have someone like Ina to make those decisions at the head of the team," she said. "You need someone who can lead the talent and the characters that you put together. I was asked on occasions and I was pleased to be asked but I didn't want that responsibility.
"I think it takes time [to gel together], for sure, but there is a really nice mix and balance of women in the team. In terms of talent, there are sprinters, climbers and everything, but also personalities. There are a lot of different nationalities, which I think is an important thing. I definitely feel that the best teams that I've been on have had a good mix of nationalities and culture and we definitely have that."
Deignan parted ways with her Boels Dolmans team early in her pregnancy and was soon snapped up by the nascent Trek women's project. She was taken on as their headline rider and has been an ambassador for the team and brand since the project was announced during the Tour de France.
Deignan has been a part of many teams throughout her career but believes that Trek is a major step forward, and that Trek coming into the women's sport on this scale is a huge boost.
"It's really important. Women's cycling really needs it and I think that Trek have come in at the right time," she said. "They're doing it at the right level. They're not doing it half-heartedly, they're really supporting us wholeheartedly. I'm delighted that they've come into the sport.
"I'm so impressed so far, I can't complain about anything. Every aspect of performance has been broken down and looked at and taken care of. I've been busy with lots of different appointments but it's all about getting the best out of the riders. It's the most professional set-up that I've ever been a part of. It's exciting."