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Back 1.26.2018

Boles-Dolmans' Lizzie Deignan on Spring Classics and Beyond

Lizzie Deignan has one of the most enviable palmarès in cycling. A former World and Commonwealth Games Champion, and the reigning British National Champion for the fourth time, Deignan has won nearly every important race on the women’s calendar. Deignan’s strength was a key part of Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team’s success in 2017, as they were once again the top ranked team in the Women’s World Tour. We caught up with Deignan at the team training camp in Spain as the classics specialist prepared for another year at the top of the sport. 

You had a bit of a health scare with appendicitis in summer 2017. How has your recovery been?
I feel really good and recovered after my surgery. It was really unfortunate that I had the appendix just after I won GP Plouay. I felt I was really peaking toward the World Championships, but I had a pretty OK season. I didn’t crash once and had some good performances.

What are your goals for 2018?
I prefer the cobbled Classics, but the Ardennes Classics are also important for the team. In women’s cycling you kind of have to be an all-rounder while there is a little bit more of a separation in men’s cycling with the cobbled and Ardennes Classics. I would like to peak a little bit earlier than the Ardennes. I love Strade Bianche and Tour of Flanders, and the National Championships is always important for me. And then I’d like to see what I can do at La Course. I surprised myself a lot last year on Le Col de L’Izoard. I’d maybe give myself a fighting chance in going to that as a leader, especially considering the World Championships course [in Innsbruck, Austria] is pretty hilly. It would be good to see where I am vs. the real climbers. So La Course and World Championships [are major goals].

As the current champion, are the Commonwealth Games on your list knowing they are at the same time as the Ardennes Classics?
I won’t go to the Commonwealth. I won the Commonwealth Games [2004 in Glasgow] and got the silver medal the previous cycle [2010 in India], so I don’t need to go to Australia to get bronze. With a silver and a gold, I’m happy with my Commonwealth games career. At the end of the day for Boels-Dolmans, the Ardennes Classics are so important for our sponsors. And I’m happy with that.

You already have a very successful career. Besides the Olympics what are the races you still dream of winning?
Amstel Gold is a pretty important race for me. I would love to win that race. There are races on the men’s calendar! I would love to win Milan-San Remo, but we don’t have one. Or [Giro di] Lombardia would be awesome. That would be cool if they could be added. I always dreamt of winning Flanders, and I did so I don’t have the same drive to win it again.

It’s exciting for us to see women’s pro cycling growing. To what do you attribute that success? What can we do to grow it even more?
Every year the sport is improving. The depth of new talent and professionalism in the sport is getting better. The comparison is always made with men’s cycling, but our sport is so much younger. So that’s kind of unrealistic to make the comparison at this stage. I think the progress is definitely there. If I look back at the start of my career, 10 years ago, we are in a totally different place now. A lot of it comes down to investment and sponsorship and also grassroots. More women are cycling and it’s a business opportunity for sponsors, which perhaps wasn’t there a few years ago. Women are more exposed to cycling that they used to be through social media and other channels. 

You’ve raced on a wide range of Zipp wheels from including the 202, 303, and 404 on the road depending upon the course conditions. What are your thoughts on the new Zipp 454 NSW wheelset and in what conditions do you foresee using them?
The 454, in crosswinds you really notice a difference. Sometimes for a windy stage we would make the choice not to use the 404 and go for a small one but now that is eliminated by the new wheels. For the flat crosswind races we do, we want fast wheels because it comes down to a sprint. But we also need stability, so the 454 are perfect. 

I also really like the 303 for the Classics. They are kind of multi-purpose. 

You’ve been racing on SRAM RED eTap® for several years now. How has the group performed in your opinion?
I really like it, and I like that fact that when I go home with my bike from a training camp, it’s not going to stop working. There’s no need for me to be close to a mechanic. I can trust my groupset. It’s efficient and always works. For somebody like me who is a useless mechanic, that’s pretty important. I guess for me it’s all about trust, knowing that if I change gear just before a sprint the chain is not going to jump off. I have a complete trust in my system.

I really like the new brakes [Boels-Dolmans will be racing eTap HRD in 2018]. I just started training on them this week at the camp. I didn’t get the chance to test them in the wet yet, but I think it’s where I will notice a big difference performance wise. The real advantage will be in races when it rains.

We know you are really good friends with Tiffany Cromwell [of Canyon//SRAM Racing] and we see her cooking a lot. Do you occasionally cook for her when you’re together?
I provide the apartment and she cooks. We both live in pretty small apartments, but I have a bigger table, so normally I’m the hostess and she is the chef. So we have a really good system. I do the washing and she does the cooking.