Lizzie Deignan sets pace as Tokyo looms


Lizzie Deignan sets pace as Tokyo looms
Lizzie Deignan sets pace as Tokyo looms

A season which looked at one stage as if it might collapse completely, along with half of its teams, eventually managed to cram in some half decent action.

Not for the first time, it was Yorkshirewoman Lizzie Deignan who led the way in terms of British success on the road.

The 31-year-old, who returned to the sport last year following the birth of daughter Orla in 2018, clearly managed to get lockdown just right. Deignan was on fire once racing resumed in August. She ended up winning three of the season’s 11 Women’s WorldTour events – the GP de Plouay, La Course by Le Tour de France and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – which was enough to see her win the overall title. Her team Trek-Segafredo took the team category.

While the 2015 world champion was unable to repeat her success from Richmond five years ago, finishing sixth in Imola as Anna van der Breggen claimed the rainbow jersey, Deignan’s form bodes very well ahead of next summer’s Tokyo Olympics where she will attempt to go one better than the silver she managed at London 2012.

If Deignan was the standout in terms of wins, Lizzy Banks was once again most improved. The 30-year-old, who only began racing in 2015, quitting medical school to chase her dream, is a steadily growing force in the women’s peloton, as she proved again when she won stage four of the Giro Rosa in September, beating breakaway companion Eugenia Bujak (Ale BTC Ljubljana) in Tivoli, the pair of them having ridden the last 90km on their own. Banks has also become a recognised and much-respected voice in the media, campaigning for greater equality from a variety of platforms. It was no surprise to see her snapped up by Ceratizit-WNT for 2021 after her team Équipe Paule Ka folded suddenly in October.

On the track, Elinor Barker was the undoubtedly outstanding British rider of the year. Her points race gold medal at the Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin in March saw her bail the British team out with their only gold medal of the week for the second straight year. After a long hiatus, Barker returned to the boards in November, coming home from the European Track Championships in Bulgaria with three medals, including two golds in the elimination race and the team pursuit, plus a bronze in the Madison.

Storey continues to be a force of nature

Dame Sarah Storey, the 43-year-old and mother of two, picked up three gold medals at the world para-cycling track championships in March, bringing her tally of world titles up to an extraordinary total of 38. Needless to say Britain’s most successful female Paralympian (14 gold medals) is already greedily eyeing Tokyo next summer.

It is off the bike, however, where Storey is arguably having the biggest impact these days. As active travel commissioner for the Sheffield City region, she has become one of the most important voices in Britain in terms of changing the way in which we travel. Storey’s efforts helped persuade the Government to pledge £2 billion to create, in the words of Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, “a new era of cycling and walking” in the UK.

Storey is rapidly acquiring national treasure status.



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