'I miss the pressure' - Lizzie Deignan targets Tour de France Femmes and Olympic Games

British rider confirms that she will race beyond 2024, talks Ineos women’s team, and how her perspectives have matured with time

Clock17:08, Saturday 4th November 2023
Lizzie Deignan (Lidl-Trek) will aim for a stage win at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in 2024

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Lizzie Deignan (Lidl-Trek) will aim for a stage win at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in 2024

Lizzie Deignan has confirmed to GCN that she is planning to extend her career beyond 2024, and that she could potentially race for another six years.

The former road world champion is out of contract with Lidl-Trek in twelve months but she is keen to maintain her presence in the women’s WorldTour.

The 34-year-old is also firmly focused on a stage win at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, and the Paris Olympic Games next season, as she looks to regain her position as a team leader.

Read more: Lidl-Trek signs junior time trial world champion Felicity Wilson-Haffenden

Deignan returned to racing in the spring of this year after taking time out following the birth of her second child. She did not win a race in 2024 but she immersed herself into the role of road captain and super domestique. She helped a string of Lidl-Trek riders to victories throughout the season, and while she missed out on an individual win herself, the season ended with a sense of accomplishment.

“The year was pretty good. I always want more, and I didn’t win a race all year. I think that’s the first time that’s happened in my career, but I did lots of good things. I was quite good at being a key support rider in many races that I did, and my level got better as the year went on. There was a nice result at Worlds, which was good for my confidence, so overall it wasn’t a disappointment. I just wanted more,” Deignan told GCN at the recent Rouleur Live event in London.

What Deignan missed most during the season was a sense of responsibility as a genuine team leader. She has been in that position for most of her racing career, and has thrived under the spotlight of leadership. That pressure was missing this year as she built her form and fitness back, but the British rider is relishing the idea of moving back into her natural position next season.

“There’s no doubt about it. Being a leader is mentally harder, and although being a domestique is a different challenge, the pressure is not as high. That’s nicer, but I miss being under pressure. It was fun this year, to be in a race and empty yourself for the team because you’re not holding anything back.”

“Next year, I want to focus on the Tour de France. I want to be there, in shape, and win a stage. I won’t be there for the overall, but I want to be in a position to try and take a stage. Before that, I’ll have a fairly traditional schedule. I won’t start earlier than normal, so I won’t do UAE or Valencia, just because I want to try and go for the Vuelta. The calendar is getting fuller and fuller, so it’s getting harder to try and find a break away from your peaks. So with the Tour, Olympics and the Worlds I think you need to push the brakes heading into the season.”

Deignan's Olympic hopes rest on the selection process at British Cycling. At her best, Deignan is a standout candidate for a medal, and her pedigree in World Championships and Olympic Games is second to none among her road colleagues. She was second to Marianne Vos at the London Olympic Games in 2012, and followed that up with a win in the elite women’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships three years later.

It will be several months before Deignan knows if she has made the grade for Olympic selection, but she is planning and training as if she’s going to Paris next summer. That’s not through a casual sense of entitlement, but rather a need to prepare for her long-term goals as early as possible.

“I have to wait for selection, but it’s actually good that the Tour de France is right around the Olympics because I want to be in peak form. So it’s not like you’re building towards a question mark and wasting form. Obviously it’s hugely important for me to be in Paris, and I’m just going to work and train as if I’m going. If I’m not, then I’m at the Tour de France anyway. I like the Olympics course. It’s tough but a nice racing circuit. And if I target a stage in the Tour de France, it’ll be a similar stage to the Olympics’s course. I’ll try and be in my best one-day race.”

No retirement plans

Deignan’s existing contract with Lidl-Trek expires at the end of next year, but the rider is calm in relation to her future, telling GCN that she will sit down in the spring and look at her options. Having been with the same organisation since 2019, and having become a linchpin in the squad’s growth and expansion, a contract extension looks more than likely. The main certainty at this point is that Deignan wants to carry on racing, and has no intentions of hanging up her wheels.

“What am I doing next? Good question. I don’t know yet, but I’m really open minded. I think I want to continue to race because of the opportunities that are around now. I’d be crazy to work my whole career, and then when I can earn a good salary, and race the best races, to just retire. I don’t feel ready for that. I think that I’ll push it for as long as I can. I’m 34, and Annemiek van Vleuten won a world title at 40. So there’s a potential for around six more years of professional cycling if I still have the motivation and I’m good enough,” Deignan told GCN.

Having enjoyed a career that has spanned three decades, Deignan’s motivation and perspectives have changed over the years. She remains as hungry as ever to win races, but she’s arguably a more complete athlete these days.

“The motivation for me is different these days. Back then, when I was younger, it was tunnel vision as I was trying to achieve my dream. I achieved a lot of dreams, so now there’s more perspective, and I really appreciate my job. It’s not just a dream, and I have a family to support. I’m still as hungry as ever, and I want to make it all count. I’m going to train hard because I don’t want to be away from my family for no reason. I want to be winning stuff.”

Could that 'stuff' be won in an Ineos Grenadiers jersey? Last week Pauline Ferrand-Prévot - the only female rider on Ineos books at present - indicated her desire to one day race the Tour de France Femmes. Such an ambition could encourage Ineos to create a women’s WorldTour team.

Deignan knows elements of the Ineos set-up from her time on the track when she raced for British Cycling, and while loyalty to Lidl-Trek is important to her - and Ineos don’t have a women’s team - she would be excited about such a entity existing for the growth of women's cycling.

“It would be brilliant. It would be a long time coming, that’s for sure, but it would make sense. I hope that Ferrand-Prévot does come to the road, because that would be great. She’s a superstar, and the more superstars we have in the women’s peloton, the better,” Deignan said.

“You have to be open minded to anything in your career. At the moment it’s not an option so it’s not something that I’ve thought about. I think post-spring I’ll look at things and see where I’m at," she added in light of her contract status.

Taking on SD Worx

One final objective for Deignan and her Lild-Trek teammates is to wrestle back the top spot in the women’s WorldTour rankings from SD Worx. The Dutch team dominated the 2023 season and have been the best ranked team for seven out of the last eight years. Deignan believes that the priority should always lay with winning races rather than chasing points, but she recognises that both ambitions can work in tandem.

“It’s really important that the team tries to get back to number one,” she told GCN.

“We’ve been there before and we know that we can do it. But that’s sport, and it’s hard to be dominant year after year. It’s more about not being disheartened by it because if it’s relentlessly SD Worx at the top, then it could be a bit demoralising. It will turn around if we keep pushing though. We’re still really up there but we’re also only interested in the win. Ranking points are kind of irrelevant to us but obviously for teams and sponsors, they are important."

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