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Lizzie Deignan: women's cycling like a 'new sport' thanks to rising standards

Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain)
Trek-Segafredo's Lizzie Deignan finished 2020 as the top rider on the UCI Women's WorldTour rankings (Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite opening up about considering retirement back in 2019, Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) has praised the ever-rising standards in the women’s peloton for keeping her motivated. The reigning Women's WorldTour champion told PA Media that she now feels like she’s competing in a “new sport”, despite the continual challenges that come with pushing  for greater equality in cycling.

While there’s currently no certainty over how much of the 2021 race calendar will go ahead as planned, there’s certainly a huge amount for Women’s WorldTour followers to be excited about, including the inaugural women’s Paris-Roubaix race in April.

Having won three WorldTour races last year, Deignan will begin the 2021 season tackling the first-ever women’s ‘Hell of the North’ before setting her sights on the Tokyo Olympic Games in July and the World Championships in Flanders in September.

It’s not just fresh events on the calendar that are keeping Deignan going, though. “[Paris-Roubaix is] really exciting, but there’s also just the fact that women’s cycling has grown so much,” Deignan said. 

“I do feel like I’m part of a new sport. It’s harder to win races and that is still motivating. Winning as many races as I did in 2016 is way harder now. It’s not easy and that keeps me motivated.

“Things that won me races back then, being able to attack at the bottom of a steep climb and pull away, won’t work now,” Deignan continued. “Now the speed into the bottom of the climbs, because of the depth of the peloton, doesn’t allow my jump to get me as big of a gap as it used to.”

If the 2021 season progresses as planned, we’ll see Deignan heading to the Ardennes Classics after Paris-Roubaix in April. She’ll then turn her sights towards Tokyo, where she predicts the heat and humidity will prove to be the biggest challenges. 

However, she does have a game plan to prepare for this: “I’ll do some heat acclimatisation work that will be based at home – almost like having a greenhouse over my bike or doing turbo sessions in the bathroom,” she said. “It will be fairly basic but quite effective.”

With Deignan’s goals clearly mapped out for 2021, and her contract running until the end of 2022, we think it’s safe to say that retirement has taken a back seat for now.

“Retiring from professional sport is a very difficult thing to do and I would like to be prepared,” she said.