Lizzie Deignan’s hopes of racing over the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix this spring were dashed when organisers ASO confirmed that the race would move to October due to the coronavirus pandemic and recent lockdown across France.
For Deignan, the news comes as a blow to her spring campaign after the former road world champion built part of her season around the cobbled Women’s WorldTour race. The 2020 version – and the inaugural women’s event - was cancelled for similar public health reasons, but its recent spring postponement leaves a hole in the calendar between this weekend’s Tour of Flanders and the start of the Ardennes in just over a fortnight.
“I originally wanted to peak for Paris-Roubaix, so we’re all getting used to having our goals and our peaks moved around anyway. I try not to get too frustrated or disappointed about it,” Deignan told Cyclingnews from her current base in Belgium.
"The goalposts are constantly moving this spring so you just have to be ready. It’s a real shame. It’s something that I really worked towards over the winter. Some of those flat cobbled sections that we raced over on Wednesday in Dwars door Vlaanderen, I felt really good on them. I’ll have a break and then focus on the Ardennes.”
The women’s calendar has been severely affected by postponement and cancellations over the last 12 months, but Deignan believes that planning accordingly to the reshuffling is the best course of action.
“It just feels that this is a constant theme and it takes some adapting to, mentally. Last year was a long season and this year is going to be the same.
"Your preparation isn’t any different but it just means that you need to drag out your periods of form. The strength comes from already knowing that it’s going to be a long season and planning in those peaks throughout the year. It should be good timing, though, with the Worlds and I don’t mind an October Roubaix. It sounds good. We’ve hopefully got the Women’s Tour in October too.”
Tour of Flanders expectations
One race that is going ahead is the women’s Tour of Flanders, which takes place this Sunday. Trek-Segafredo has three former winners in the race in Deignan, Elisa Longo Borghini, and Ellen van Dijk, with another former winner – Ina Yoko Teutenberg – set to direct from the team car.
The American-registered team came out of their recent Belgian outings without a top result, and despite numerical advantages at various points in Gent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen, Deignan is confident that with some luck they can come away with a win at Flanders by repeating their aggressive tactics.
“We’ve just been missing that little bit of luck and the right circumstances but if we keep knocking on the door and keep chasing it then I think it will pay off. There’s no secret to the fact that if someone like Annemiek van Vleuten attacks on one of the longer climbs then I can’t follow. It’s about being smart and using our numbers, which we have the benefit of within the team. They’re our strengths, being aggressive and having numbers in the finale,” she told Cyclingnews.
“There are so many different scenarios and luck comes into it too. You need to be in a good position leading into every climb and cumulative bad luck can mean you’re not there when you need to be. So it's about getting as far into the race as possible.
“An open race and a more attritional race suits us and I expect us to be aggressive and animate. I don’t think any of us want to hang around. I still don’t know my role yet but I’ll be expected to be there in the back end of the race. Ellen is in really good shape and Elisa has already proved that she’s in top form. She had a bad day on Wednesday but that’s normal and she’ll be back to her normal self for Saturday.”
Deignan’s own form took a hit at the start of the season after a short bout of illness meant that she had to take a week off the bike after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. She came back and took 12th in Trofeo Alfredo Binda and then spent the last two races in Belgium building her form and working for others. The Tour of Flanders might come too soon for her to reach peak form but her experience and racecraft will be invaluable within the Trek-Segafredo team.
“I’m ready to work if I need to,” she said. “The form is getting there but it’s been difficult. I had a bit of illness after the Opening Weekend so I had to have a week off the bike there. That set me back and took a toll because we don’t have any preparation races. We don’t have a Paris-Nice or a stage race to build racing form. I can tell I’ve missed that but I’m getting there and I can feel the race rhythm is coming. I felt good on Wednesday and the timing could be good.
"So the night before I travelled, my daughter was up all night ill. I didn’t feel ill until after the race but then I was really poor when I got home from the race. It’s just one of those things that happens and you can’t avoid it. Luckily it wasn’t [COVID-19] coronavirus and there wasn’t anything long term. It should mean that my form comes a bit later, around the Ardennes, and hopefully I’m peaking by then and not just hanging onto it."
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