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Lizzie Deignan: It was time to start somewhere new

Lizzie Deignan (Boels Dolmans)

Lizzie Deignan (Boels Dolmans)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

Lizzie Deignan has said that her departure from the Boels Dolmans team was amicable and it was time to start afresh after it was announced that she would head up Trek's new women's team in 2019.

Deignan, who joined Boels Dolmans in 2014, decided to cut short her contract with the Dutch squad to become a brand ambassador for the bike manufacturer ahead of her debut as a rider for the 2019 season. The new deal will see her stay at the nascent team for at least two years.

"I think we were both on the same page, that it was a good time for me to start somewhere new. I definitely didn't leave with any ill feeling on any side. It was a very amicable separation," Deignan said following a press conference at the Trek-Segafredo hotel in Aix-les-Bains on the Tour de France's first rest day.

Deignan was coy on when exactly she began speaking with Trek about the new project but said that she had already decided to cut ties with Boels Dolmans by that point. The British former world champion is currently on sabbatical while pregnant with her first child, which is due in September.

She announced her pregnancy in March, after initially being named on the start list for a few early-season races. With her contract due for renewal at the end of this season, Deignan said that she believed she would have far fewer options following her pregnancy but that she was pleased to see it wasn’t the case.

"I knew that announcing my pregnancy would potentially limit my options of teams and I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't. I wasn't sure what to expect and I guess my perception of it was that I could potentially be perceived as a risk, but the opposite happened when Trek came," she explained.

Asked if she felt that there was a pressure on female athletes not to have children, Deignan said no but that the financials of the sport made it very hard.

"I think that I am in a unique position in that I can afford to take a year off from cycling,” Deignan said. "Not many women can do that. Maybe 10 would be in the position to take a step back so it's not in terms of pressure, it's just the fundamentals of being able to do it, not many riders are in that position."

Other riders have been linked with the Trek project, including Deignan's former Boels Dolmans teammate Ellen van Dijk – who currently races with Team Sunweb – and Wiggle-High5's Elisa Longo Borghini. Deignan says that she has played a role in selecting the riders that will make up the team, but she is not the one making the decisions on the matter.

"I definitely have been part of the process but I wouldn't say that I am the selector, I wouldn't want that responsibility. I think it's important that somebody has an overview of what sort of characters and physical attributes riders have and I don't think that it would be right to be making those decisions," she said.

"I'm sure that there will be other leaders as well. One of the reasons that I wanted to join Trek is their ambition to be one of the best teams in the world. I don't think I control that responsibility alone, especially next year. I've always enjoyed riding in a team with lots of strong riders. I think that's key to success."

When Deignan will make her first appearance in the Trek colours remains to be seen, and she says that with a new baby to look after, nothing can truly be set in stone.

"Not yet. I think it is also important that I can be flexible. I've never had a baby before so I don't know what's going to happen. I'll definitely be racing, but my first race I don't have on my calendar."

Deignan's initial term with the new Trek team will bring her up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. With a climber-focused course, Deignan will be one of the favourites at the Games but her major target is a little closer to home, literally. Next year's World Championships will take place in Yorkshire and is set to pass by her family home.

"The Yorkshire World Championships is probably the biggest goal in my career," said Deignan. "It literally goes past the house that I grew up in and finishes about a kilometre away from the house we're going to live in. It's about as home as it could be."