'It'd definitely be difficult to watch' - No rest for Lizzie Deignan until women's Tour de France
The Yorkshirewoman considered retirement until the pandemic disrupted everyone's plans - and now she hopes to keep on riding long enough to line up at the start of the women's Tour de France. Deignan is thrilled by the progress in cycling since the start of her career.
Team Trek-Segafredo's Elizabeth Deignan celebrates on the podium after winning "la course by le tour" women's race prior to the 1st stage of the 107th edition of the Tour de France cycling race
Published 23/01/2021 at 10:03 GMT | Updated 23/01/2021 at 16:51 GMT
Lizzie Deignan had mentioned the possibility of considering retirement after the 2020 Olympic Games. Then coronavirus hit - and the Yorkshirewoman has changed her plans.
Apart from anything else, she says she'd hate to stop riding when a women's Tour de France finally seems imminent. UCI president David Lappartient has previously said a women's stage race in France will launch in 2022.
"It'd definitely be difficult to watch that in retirement, I think - 'I was just shy of being able to compete in the Tour de France,'" she told Eurosport on the phone from a Trek-Segafredo training camp in Spain, "because obviously it's the pinnacle of the men's side of the sport and I think it'd be quite impactful for us to finally have one too."
"I think it's so good that the next generation of cyclists will have the opportunity to negotiate on better contracts, on better working conditions, because there will be that inter-competition between top flight women's teams which there hasn't been before," said Deignan.
"Pooling of talent has happened before where the best riders just are all together because only a few teams can afford to support them, so I think it will mean that the depth is spread wider in the sport and that only means good things for the racing too."
Investment in teams goes hand-in-hand with increased media visibility, and Deignan is pleased about that too.
"Personally it's not like, 'Gosh, I wish I was on the cover of that magazine,' - it's more about the opportunities as an athlete," she said. "I think it's been a massive growth period in women's cycling so I try to avoid getting too frustrated and focus on the positive things that have happened and the steps that have been made. If I consider the sport I compete in now compared to the sport I started in, I think there's been a massive step forward so I find that quite motivating."
Highlights as Deignan wins women's Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Deignan's contract with her team runs into 2022, and she is already looking ahead.
"I think this season we'll still have Covid disruptions," she said. "There will be races cancelled, so it'll be nice to at least know that I'll have - let's be optimistic - 2022, which will be a bit smoother for everybody.
"I think the pandemic has taught all of us to be a bit more open minded and flexible - and I've decided not to say that I'm going to retire after two years because I think people will stop believing me!"
Lizzie is an ambassador for cycle insurance provider Cycleplan.