Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain) during the 2021 World Championship road race in Belgium.

Lizzie Deignan reckons the Italians had won even before the sprint

2015 world champion Lizzie Deignan says, “if you give the Italians a sniff of a sprint in a World Championships, they’re going to take it”

by Kit Nicholson

photography by Getty Images

Lizzie Deignan and her young Great Britain teammates were ever-present in the women’s World Champs road race. In the end, Deignan finished the 157.7 km slog from Antwerp to Leuven in 14th, but is on the whole satisfied with how things played out.

“I was really happy with the way I rode,” Deignan told CyclingTips after the finish. “Tactically, I kept putting myself in good positions, and [I had] phenomenal teammates in Pfeiffer Georgi and Anna Henderson. I just missed the legs in the end and that’s the way it is, it’s a bike race.”

With Deignan their protected rider, the Brits were one of the teams to take responsibility for pace-setting early on, and once the attacks started, Pfeiffer Georgi and Anna Henderson were instrumental. But even with teammates to do the work, it was a constant effort to maintain position and keep in touch.

“It was like a criterium at the end of 160 km at the end of a tough season,” Deignan said. “Out of each corner there were motorbikes, so the top ten probably got a rush off the motorbike out of the corner. If you were further back than that, you were just chasing. I looked down and I was doing 60 km/h out of the corners. There was a lot of damage being caused, and it was hard to just surf the wheels. Even moving up positions was really difficult because the speed was so high.”

Lizzie Deignan (Great Britain) follows Marianne Vos (Netherlands) during the World Champs road race.

There was a flurry of repeated attacks towards the end of the event, and though the formidable Netherlands team were all over the action, Deignan is sure they had their minds set on a sprint. And yet, perhaps it was a mistake to allow so many Italians to ride with them to the line.

“As soon as the Dutch rode so defensively on Overijse [97 km into the race], I thought, ‘yeah, it’s going to come to a sprint’,” Deignan explained. “I expected them to use their strength a bit better over the climbs. I was surprised to see them not doing that because if you give the Italians a sniff of a sprint in a World Championships, they’re going to take it because they execute it so well.”

And execute it they did. Elisa Longo Borghini led out her 23-year-old teammate – a future teammate of Deignan’s too, Elisa Balsamo having signed with Trek-Segafredo for 2022 – who held off the Netherlands’s three-time world champion Marianne Vos. Deignan came home in the bunch a second later.

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