Cycling: Armitstead admits title chances are looking slim

Lizzie Armitstead. PIC: Tony Johnson
Lizzie Armitstead. PIC: Tony Johnson
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World champion Lizzie Armitstead admits the chances of her successfully defending the rainbow jersey next month are slim – and that a shot at that elusive Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2020 may also be beyond her.

The 27-year-old from Otley has seen her her name dragged through the mud this summer in a drugs test scandal.

Armitstead – the road race silver medallist at London 2012 –missed three drugs tests in the 12 months leading up to the Rio Games.

That would normally result in a ban, but her successful appeal to have one of the tests struck off meant she could still compete at a second Olympics.

A fifth-place finish given that her build-up to the race was dominated by the fallout, was a creditable effort.

And in any other year, a chance to win a second world road race title to add to the one she claimed in the USA last September, would be the perfect end to a troubling chapter.

But the realistic Armitstead knows that next month’s road race world championships in the heat of Doha, do not suit a girl from the more capricious climate of Yorkshire.

“I don’t think I will be able to defend my world title in Doha as the course isn’t suited to my strengths,” said Armitstead.

“Instead I have set my sights on the world championships in Norway next September.

“With its steep climbs and little recovery time, that should be perfect for me.

“Plus it will more than likely be cold and rainy, a little bit like Yorkshire.”

It is not unusual for cyclists to target certain races. In 2011, the British men’s team was built to deliver an historic world title for sprinter Mark Cavendish, something it achieved perfectly.

The multiple Tour de France stage winner has not been a factor in world championship road races that are sprinter-unfriendly since.

Armitstead had targeted last year’s women’s event all year and delivered a brilliant sprint victory ahead of Anna ven der Breggen, the woman who last month won the Olympic road race.

That crowning moment came amid a golden spell for Armitstead, who was largely untouchable in elite races across the world.

Now though, after a period in which her reputation has been tarnished and questions raised about her credibility, Armitstead is understandably not making any grandiose plans about finally ending her quest for Olympic gold.

She will be 31 by the time Tokyo 2020 wheels around, and said: “As a cyclist you can’t look too far ahead. As I know, a lot can happen in a year, so the Tokyo Olympics aren’t even on my radar.

“Earlier this year I signed a two-year contract extension with Boels-Dolmans and so we will see where we are at the end of that!”

Elsewhere, Wakefield’s Oliver Wood is one of six men who will ride for GB Cycling in the Tour of Britain which begins tomorrow in Glasgow.

Wood is part of a six-man team headlined by Sheffield’s Adam Blythe, the national road race champion.

The eight-day Tour of Britain, which beats a path to London down the west coast, has a strong field, highlighted by home favourites Sir Bradley Wiggins and Cavendish, and German duo Andre Greipel and Tony Martin.