Twenty-three days after undergoing an emergency appendectomy, Yorkshire’s Lizzie Deignan bids to win the UCI World Road Race title for a second time in Bergen, Norway, today.
Merely making the startline for today’s race is a victory in itself for the 28-year-old from Otley, whose preparations for the biggest race of her year were thrown into serious jeopardy by the need for emergency surgery on August 30.
Since then, she has undergone 13 days of complete rest and lost two kilograms of muscle.
But the 28-year-old from Otley – who won the world title in Richmond, USA, two years ago – has enough desire and determination to at least start the race and lead the Great Britain team in Norway today.
“I’m just waking up on Saturday hoping that I’ll be all right,” said Deignan, nee Armitstead, whose breakthrough came when she won silver at the London 2012 Olympics.
“It’s fun. I’m a total unknown. My rivals won’t ignore me, but they won’t know what to expect.”
I just had this small hope that I could make it here and it wasn’t something I was ready to give up on. I fought on and I’m here.Lizzie Deignan
Deignan had enjoyed her customary stellar season, with wins at the Asda Tour de Yorkshire and the British National Championships among her better performances, but she withdrew from the Women’s Tour of Holland after becoming ill overnight.
She said: “It’s quite bizarre to be in such fine form – I was really going quite well – to wake up next day in a hospital bed and think, ‘Right, that’s it, it’s over’.
“I just had this small hope that I could make it here and it wasn’t something I was ready to give up on.
“I fought on and I’m here.”
Deignan was optimistic of success in Norway after appraising the 19.1-kilometres course in May. The women’s peloton will compete over eight laps and 152.8km.
The Road World Championships in Yorkshire in 2019 could be Deignan’s swansong and she was determined to be in Bergen for another course that suits her.
“I did a recon in May, saw the circuit and thought it was perfect for me,” she added.
Deignan is joined in the team by Elinor Barker, Dani King, Hannah and Alice Barnes, Hayley Simmonds and fellow Yorkshirewoman Mel Lowther, who won the British Under-23s road race title in the Isle of Man earlier this summer.
Tom Pidcock, who is also from Otley, won the junior time-trial world title on Tuesday – a day before Chris Froome took bronze in the men’s elite event – and goes in the junior road race today.
Britain are without Mark Cavendish and Froome for the men’s race tomorrow.
Cavendish, the 2011 world champion, had made it one of his season’s targets, but is still recovering from a fractured shoulder sustained at July’s Tour de France.
Tour stage winner Steve Cummings was not selected, but Britain still have options in the team for the 267.5km race.
Sheffield’s Adam Blythe, the 2016 British champion, is expected to lead the nine-man squad which includes his two fellow Yorkshireman in Scott Thwaites of Burley-in-Wharfedale and Ben Swift of Rotherham.
All three have enjoyed strong seasons, highlighted by each man riding a grand tour.
Thwaites has shown he can challenge on Classics-type courses, but if it comes down to a sprint, Swift – as well as Blythe – might also have a say.
The team is completed by Owain Doull, Pete Kennaugh, Jon Dibben, Mark Christian, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Ian Stannard.
Without Cavendish, Britain is without it’s major threat, but Swift revealed in a recent interview that he felt Great Britain could spring a surprise.
“We’ve got dangerous guys,” said Swift, who finished 12th in Ponferrada in 2014. “Pete [Kennaugh] can animate a race in the final and the Bergen course really suits him, with the top of the climb not that far from the finish.
“[Ian] Stannard if he’s in the mood. Me for the final if it does come to that scenario.
“You never know who might have a good day.
“I guess that is one strength of our team is that we can react a little more, we’re not just going to ride on the front for one person.
“We can cover moves and then maybe put an option at the final.
“From speaking with Edvald Boasson-Hagen (former team-mate and one of the favourites), I think it’s maybe a bit harder than people think.
“And then you’ve got to throw the weather into the mix. [If it’s bad weather] that kind of suits guys like me and Stannard.”
Wakefield’s Oliver Wood finished a highly-creditable fourth-place in the Under23’s world championships road race yesterday.