Sweetspot and thetour.co.uk haven’t organised The Women’s Tour simply because they’ve been pressured into doing so – they have a real love for women’s cycling and are committed to its development, which is why they’ve provided the following interview in which Brendan Gallagher talked to Lizzie about her year so far and her thoughts on the Tour.
At the start of this season the height Lizzie Armitstead’s Spring ambitions was to get back into the groove after a testing, injury plagued, 2013 when she struggled to build in any fitness, form and confidence.
And yet here we are at the end of April and after four quick fire World Cup races – one first and three second places – Armitstead is leading the UCI World Cup rankings by 160 points. Yet the World Cup isn’t really a season’s goal for the Olympic Silver medal winner. She will not be travelling to China after the inaugural Friends Life Women’s Tour for the next round at Chongming Island or indeed will she be at Round Six, the Sparkassen Giro in Bochum, which clashes with the Commonwealth Games.
“It funny how it goes but the World Cup itself wasn’t really a target at all, although we had our eyes on one of two of the races in particular, and yet it has gone very well so far. The Commonwealth Games and the World Championships are strong personal goals this season the Women’s Tour and the La Course one day race on the last day of the Tour de France, which finishes on the Champs Elysees, are going to be very big and high profile events for my team Boels Dolmans.
“The fact it that 2012 was a huge year for me, mentally and physically, and I probably paid the price a bit in 2013 when there was a lot of accumulated fatigue and I picked up a few injury niggles. There was no panic though I knew what was happening so come the winter I took the chance to relax and really rest first before starting to quietly work away though the winter. I started the season very fresh but what I probably couldn’t anticipate so much was that I would be in such good form.
“There are no plans yet to change my programme so I will race an abbreviated World Cup schedule and if that is enough to win the title, all well and good. I certainly won’t be going to China, which starts just a couple of days after the Women’s Tour which became a big priority for me as soon as it was announced and then I will definitely miss another round when the Commonwealth Games are on. The Road race in Glasgow is a big target although racing in La Course will rule out any track racing
“I’ve been pretty vocal in my support for women’s cycling being treated properly and on an equal footing with the men so obviously am very excited about the Women’s Tour. I am totally behind what the organisers are doing and the ethics behind the race if you like but as we get closer, being a racer, my focus is simply on the race itself and how we can perform best as a team.
“Being a new event we have no real prior knowledge of the finishes and expected conditions – I would imagine there could be a couple of windy days – so we will be looking at the race manual and scrambling to get all the information I can in the next few days. What we do know is that we have five reasonably short stages and a very competitive field with most of the top teams and racers present so I am expecting some really hectic finishes.”
The Friends Life Women’s Tour takes place from 7th to 11th May 2014, starting from Oundle in Northamptonshire and finishing in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. The race will also pass through Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex during the five stages, with highlights on ITV4 at 9pm each evening.