Lizzie Deignan (nee Armitstead) admits her reign as world champion will, in all likeliness, come to an end today as she closes what has been a traumatic second half to the season in Doha.
The Yorkshirewoman who cried tears of joy and relief when she crossed the line to win the rainbow jersey in the United States last September, was embroiled in a drugs scandal on the eve of this summer’s Olympics which undermined her quest for gold in Rio.
She missed three drugs tests in the 12 months leading up to the Rio Games. Such an offence would normally result in a ban, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that the first of those missed tests was void, because the doping control officer from the UK Anti-Doping Agency had not done enough to locate her.
A clearly distressed Armitstead finished fifth in Rio, and arrives in Doha having married Team Sky rider Philip Deignan last month.
She remains insistent that there was no fault on her part over the missed test that was eventually thrown out, and spared her a ban.
“UKAD, I’m sure, will at some point, maybe, release a statement, which would be nice,” she said in an interview with cyclingnews.com on the eve of the world championships.
Expanding further on the episode, the 27-year-old from Otley said: “In that moment, it’s something I had never experienced before. I never expected it would blow up on such a scale. I was taking advice from people who I thought were experts in how to handle it.
“And actually, the moment when I trusted my instincts and trusted my own words, made my own statement – I wrote that at 3am in my hotel bed prior to flying to Rio – that was the moment when I felt the most comfortable.”
Deignan has already admitted that the flat course in Doha today, and the oppressive heat, will not suit her title defence.
She is already targeting next year’s world championships in the more favourable climate of Norway, with the announcement this week that the global event will be coming to her home county of Yorkshire in 2019, providing her with further opportunities to win the rainbow jersey later in her career.
“I’m here because I respect the jersey and I want to respect the next winner of the jersey,” said Deignan.
“If I went home with a world title from here I would be surprised, but obviously delighted. It’s not a world championships I have prepared specifically for, but I have good form from winning the team time-trial (Sunday). Never say never. This is my profession, and I respect my sponsors.
“I haven’t done anything wrong so I was never going to walk away from this season.”