Lizzie Deignan hopes to encourage new cyclists as she comes “for the win” at the Ford RideLondon Classique
Lizzie Deignan returns to racing on UK roads this week at the Ford RideLondon Classique with two targets in mind – to taste victory for the first time since returning to the bike and to inspire the next generation of cyclists.
The three-stage Ford RideLondon Classique is Britain’s only UCI Women’s WorldTour race in 2023 and starts with two stages in Essex on Friday 26 May and Saturday 27 May. Stage One (150km) is from Saffron Walden to Colchester while Stage Two (140km) starts and finishes in Maldon. The last stage (91km) is the iconic, multi-lap finale in central London, starting and finishing on The Mall.
Deignan, a former World Road Race Champion and four-time British Road Race Champion, made her comeback to competitive action last month after the birth of her second child last year. She will make her first appearance at the Ford RideLondon Classique as part of a strong Trek-Segafredo team that also includes the reigning Italian champion and the runner-up in last year’s Classique, Elisa Balsamo (ITA).
Deignan said that the quality of racing in the peloton improved during her time off the bike, as she played a supportive role in La Vuelta Femenina, following races in the Ardennes. Speaking the week of the event, she added that she is feeling better on the bike with each passing race and is entering Ford RideLondon Classique in form to compete for victories.
She said: “I am really excited about racing in the Ford RideLondon Classique, it is probably the first race [since returning] where I feel like I'll be able to be in the mix, and it won’t be about just surviving.
“My form has come on a lot in recent weeks and the course suits my style. However, while you can be flying in training there is no replication for racing. You need to suffer on the bike, and I am so happy to have found my finesse and race rhythm so quickly.
“Trek-Segafredo has a strong team, and we are coming for the win. The team has been designed to challenge to win this race and there are chances to do something. Stage Two suits me the best as it is the most dynamic and offers breakaway opportunities.
“I am excited to be back in a race where it’s not just the physical strength of the rider but the tactical strength of the team.”
Deignan said the festival atmosphere that will greet the riders through the streets of Essex and London is a great motivator for riders. The three-lap circuit of Maldon at the end of Stage Two and the eight-lap circuit of central London offers spectators multiple chances to support and develop a relationship with the race.
She said: “I love racing in the UK because the course on paper and the course itself can be very different things. The flat roads can feel like a climb in the UK. It has been designed really well and makes the most of both Essex and London. Finishing with a circuit race is really exciting, especially in such an iconic city.
“Real city centre criterium races are something special as they add to the festival atmosphere. You can build a relationship with the race on multiple circuits as you see people more than once. I will be looking out for my auntie and uncle, who are coming out to support me.”
Scott Sunderland, Race Director of the Ford RideLondon Classique, says the course was designed to offer riders of all abilities the chance to be competitive – whether on flatter or hillier sections.
He said: “Essex has always had a relationship with cycling, beginning with the 2012 London Olympic Games Mountain Biking. Finding the right track was a challenge but we want to keep the race exciting and fresh for riders and spectators, at the beginning and end of stages. It is a challenging course and you need to be alert throughout, including in London.”
There will be a number of riders who will be looking to add their name to an exclusive list of winners at The Mall, including many from the UK. Deignan herself won silver at the Olympics in 2012 on the iconic finish.
Deignan praised the current strength of British women representing in the UCI Women’s WorldTour which is demonstrated by the number of domestic riders who will be racing for top-level teams at this year’s Ford RideLondon Classique. This list includes Pfeiffer Georgi, former National Road Race Champion and winner of this year’s Classic Brugge-De Panne, Anna Henderson, former National Road Race Time-Trial Champion and winner of the 2022 RideLondon Classique’s Ford Queen of the Mountain jersey, Alice Towers, the current National Road Race Champion, and Deignan’s team-mate Elynor Backstedt.
The 2012 London Olympic Silver medallist says events such as the Ford RideLondon Classique offer a great chance to inspire future generations.
She said: “Participation levels in the UK are at an all-time high but we still want more entry into cycling at grass-roots levels. The best way to show and inspire people to race is to do it in front of them. There will be countless little girls that will be excited and enthralled by what they see this weekend. The carnival atmosphere can only do good things for the sport’s future.
“This is a great time for women’s racing in the UK and more women than ever are racing in the World Tour. I want to be in the World Championship team in Glasgow as I think I can have a real impact in helping them to grow and be successful.”
In total, 19 teams will be competing in the 2023 Ford RideLondon Classique including nine UCI Women’s WorldTour teams and UCI Women’s Continental Teams.
For a second year in a row, the prize money structure of the Classique has been designed to ensure that 40,000 euros of the overall race fund of 100,000 euros is split evenly among the 19 competing teams. The remaining 60,000 euros is available in prize money. This re-structuring of the prize pot was made after consultation with the teams and with an aim of giving professional women’s cycling stronger foundations going forward.
All three stages of the Ford RideLondon Classique will be shown live on the BBC in the UK and by the following broadcasters around the world:
- Europe: Eurosport.com or Discovery+
- South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa: SuperSport
- Brazil and New Zealand: Olympic Channel
- Rest of the world: GCN
For more information on the Ford RideLondon Classique routes, click here.
The full list of teams competing in the 2023 Ford RideLondon Classique is available here.