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13 October 2019 19:34

UCI Road World Championships World championship Tom Pidcock

Lizzie Deignan: I was really nervous before my first race back

Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) says she's finding it 'boring' that she can't yet attack as she has done in the past. The former world champion only made her return to racing two weeks ago at the Amstel Gold Race, having taken an extended break to give birth to her daughter, Orla. Deignan races through the Ardennes Classics last week, with her best result coming at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where she finished in seventh place. This week she's racing at the two-stage Tour de Yorkshire, her home race, and her first stage race with new team Trek-Segafredo. The 30-year-old put in a number of shifts on the front of the bunch during the cold and rainy conditions of stage one from Barnsley to Bedale, which was eventually won in a sprint finish by Dutchwoman Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenberg).

But Deignan says she struggled in the difficult conditions of Friday's stage and that she's still working towards the kind of condition that helped her become world champion in 2015. "It was very cold, kind of miserable for a long time but there were hundreds of people out on the roads and it was a great atmosphere," Deignan said at the finish in Bedale. "To be honest I was just trying to stay warm, obviously normally in a race you're trying to save as much energy as you possibly can but today there were points where you just had to ride on the front to stay warm and then towards the end we didn't have our sprint, she's unfortunately been poorly this morning, so we kind of just did what we could and we all got through safely. "I struggled today, I felt better in Liège last week, hopefully tomorrow I'll come round. Stage one of the women's Tour de Yorkshire also gave riders a glimpse at the 20km finishing circuit of the World Championships road race in September, which finishes with an uphill drag on Parliament Street in Harrogate; the same finish used in the opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France.

free battle

Deignan, who grew up in nearby Otley, explained after racing the Worlds finish for the first time that she'd been approaching the final corners of the circuit wrong in reconnaissance rides in training. "It was really good [to see the World Champs course], and to be honest I've been doing it wrong in training. So I'm glad I actually saw the proper course, it was good," Deignan said. Deignan also added that the finals descent and climb out of Oak Beck on Penny Pot Lane, around 5km from Worlds finish line, will be an important point positionally in a 150km race that could come down to a sprint finish. She said anyone out of position at that point would be "in trouble" ahead of the final roads towards the finish. With more rain, plunging temperatures and a block headwind expected over the North York Moors National Park on Saturday, Lizzie Deignan predicted the finale to the Women's Tour de Yorkshire could simply come down to "survival". Deignan, who is taking part in just her fourth race since giving birth last September, began this week with high hopes of repeating her 2017 triumph. However, after finishing in the pack on Friday's first stage – a cold and wet affair from Barnsley to Bedale, which was won by Dutch rider Lorena Wiebes – the 30-year-old sounded a little less optimistic. "It's been a while since I've raced in cold conditions like that," Deignan said. "I mean, Liège [last Sunday] was cold but today felt colder just because it was an easier race. To be honest, I felt better last week in the Ardennes. There were times in the middle of the night, when feeding her new-born daughter, that Lizzie Deignan thought she would never ride a bike competitively again. But before such bleary-eyed thoughts could take hold, Deignan quickly pushed them to the back of her mind and instead focused on those fellow athletes who told her the life-changing decision she had made off the bike would not ultimately end her future on it. In those days when the doubts crept in, Deignan thought of the counsel she had sought from Dame Sarah Storey and Laura Trott, Paralympic and Olympic cycling champions who had both taken time off to have children, only to come back stronger. "In those moments where I thought, 'this isn't possible' I knew it was possible because of them," Deignan tells The Yorkshire Post. I'll have to be better than I was and, even after having a child, I think that's possible. Deignan, nee Armitstead, was at the peak of her powers in 2017 – Tour de Yorkshire winner, 2015 world champion – when along with husband and fellow professional cyclist Philip Deignan they decided to try for a family. Orla Deignan was born in September, 2018, almost a year to the day from the UCI Road World Championships women's race from Bradford to Harrogate on September 28. The prospect of a home world title, plus the chance to ride for that elusive Olympic gold medal in Tokyo next summer, are the reasons Deignan is back in the saddle a little over seven months after giving birth. Toni Minichiello, the coach of Jessica Ennis-Hill, said it was like training a completely different athlete when the Olympic heptathlon champion returned from childbirth. "I'm training differently, there are certain aspects that have changed," says Deignan, who made her competitive return at the Amstel Gold Race last month. "I returned seven months after giving birth, but my body won't be back to normal until nine months. I've been cycling for 15 years, going to the same races, I'd won most of what I wanted to win. Regaining the Tour de Yorkshire and world titles is driving her on. In her two previous attempts at the women's race Deignan has gone for broke both times, unsuccessfully into Doncaster the first time, but successfully into Harrogate 12 months later. "I'll need to get better if I want to win the world title," adds Deignan. "I'll have to be better than I was and, even after having a child, I think that's possible." Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) said that she felt nervous for the first time in a long time as she put on her first race jersey in more than a year. Deignan made her return to racing following her maternity leave at the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday and has since ridden Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Related Articles Lizzie Deignan not rushing comeback after birth of daughter Lizzie Deignan: I really love cycling again Lizzie Deignan returns from maternity leave to race Ardennes Classics Philippa York: Deignan and Storey differ in Yorkshire Worlds opinions Over the winter, Deignan said that she felt like a junior again as she prepared for the new season. After giving birth last September, Deignan had given herself a deadline of June to return to racing, with a view to being in form for the world championships in her home county of Yorkshire. However, she had indicated that she could come back earlier if she felt that she was ready and a recent change in circumstance meant that she was able to increase her training. I knew that I could only come so far myself without having that race fitness and other people to push me." Deignan was very much thrown into the deep end on her return, taking on the Ardennes Classics. She finished second in all three of them in 2017, and though she wouldn't be in contention for the podium on this occasion, she has helped her Trek-Segafredo team to ride aggressively. I knew that my baseline fitness was good but I knew that race rhythm would be a stretch too far in terms of fighting for the win," Deignan said. Deignan has a packed schedule on her return and she will race the Tour de Yorkshire next week before heading across the pond for the Tour of California. Lizzie Deignan was competing for the first time since the 2017 world championships Britain's Lizzie Deignan returned to cycling at the Amstel Gold Race seven months after giving birth to her first child. The former world champion, 30, was racing with her new team Trek-Segafredo as Kasia Niewiadoma, 24, won the first of this year's Ardennes Classics. The Polish Canyon-SRAM rider held off two-time time trial world champion Annemiek van Vleuten in a close finish. Earlier Deignan pushed the leaders hard throughout the race and broke out to lead herself with around 40km to go. However, she was unable to sustain her challenge in her first race for almost two years and finished among the chasing pack. Deignan is now set to race in the other Ardennes Classics - La Fleche Wallonne Feminine and Liege-Bastogne-Liege - later this month.