Lizzie Deignan: Professional cycling now harder than ever – which is great!

Lizzie Deignan believes the standard of professional cycling is getting “harder and harder” as she continues to make her return to the sport.

The 34-year-old is set to compete in the three-day Ford RideLondon Classique later this week, her first UK race since October 2021.

RideLondon begins on Friday and has two stages in Essex before Sunday’s finale in central London, which includes a finish down the Mall.

Speaking about her return to competitive action this year after giving birth to her second child last September, Deignan believes the performance levels in cycling are continuing to improve.

“I think on both the men’s and women’s side, professional cycling it’s getting harder and harder,” Deignan told a press conference.

“Everybody is pushing their limits and the performance levels are getting stronger in women’s cycling particularly, the changes, the investment that we’ve seen means the peloton, the level of performance, is deeper.

“It’s harder for breakaways to go on climbs, the break takes longer to go, it’s just simply harder than it’s ever been before – which is great!”

Seven months after giving birth to son Shea, the Olympic silver medallist and former World Road Race champion made an earlier-than-expected return to racing in April.

Injury and illness among her Trek-Segafredo team-mates saw her line up at La Fleche Wallonne last month before going on to compete in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Deignan has since taken part in La Vuelta Femenina, making the upcoming RideLondon race her fourth competition of the year, and she says she is settling back into dealing with the demands of racing.

“Personally, my form I learned again for the second time that you can be flying in training, you can be as fit as you want, but it’s no replication for racing,” said Deignan, who gave birth to daughter Orla in September 2018.

“You simply can’t suffer as much you need to or accelerate as many times as you need to, there’s no replacement for racing.

“I’m really happy that the finesse and race rhythm has come back really quickly so I’m excited to do RideLondon.

“Even in the last week I feel like I’ve taken another step forward in my performance so I’m really excited about it.”