Lizzie Armitstead does not believe British Cycling is inherently sexist despite autobiography revelations

Tom Cary
Lizzie Armitstead at last year's Olympic Games - Copyright (c) 2016 Rex Features. No use without permission.

Lizzie Armitstead has clarified that she does not believe that British Cycling is inherently sexist after describing certain experiences which have happened to her in a new autobiography.

Armitstead says she was woken up as a 19 year-old rider and told to go downstairs to the bar of a hotel, where she was “left with no choice” but to dance with a male rider in front of a room full of men.

The 28 year-old also told the Guardian that she was “let down big time” by the British Cycling team manager Brian Stephens on the day she won the 2015 world road race in Richmond, Virginia. Armitstead said that Stephens, who had been appointed her coach, did not turn up for her race as he had prioritised the men’s junior team. 

“I was really disappointed, because I’d done everything right going into that competition, and I just needed them to get it right for me on the day,” she said. “And they didn’t. There was a lack of leadership. They let me down big time.”

Of the episode as a teenager, Armitstead - now Deignan after marrying the Team Sky rider Philip Deignan - said she was woken up at 11.30pm by a senior manager at a professional team and told to go downstairs to the bar where they were having a party for one of the male riders. She says she was the only woman there and had “no choice” but to take part in a Nintendo Wii dance competition against the birthday boy. “It was only later, when I really thought about it, I thought, ‘No, that wasn’t a laugh’,” she says.

Armitstead was cleared to ride in last year’s Olympic Games after successfully appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against a ban for missing three out of competition doping tests

She said on Friday night that she wanted to clarify her comments regarding British Cycling, which is awaiting the publication of an independent review of its culture following claims of sexism and bullying triggered by the rider Jess Varnish last year.

“I am pleased that I have written a book as everything I want to express is done so with context and explanation,” Armitstead wrote on Twitter. “I would like to be clear I do not think BC as an organisation are sexist. 

“My book is about my own experiences and mine alone, I don’t speak for anybody other than myself. My book is candid and I don’t shy away from the big issues. Have a great weekend, it’s a big one in Flanders for me.”

Armitstead takes part in one of the biggest races of the season on Sunday, the Tour of Flanders. She won the race last year.

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