Lizzie Deignan expects to return to competition eight months after the birth of her second child at La Vuelta Femenina, held from May 1-7 in Spain.
Deignan revealed her plans to ease into the season with a focus on hitting her peak at the Tour de France Femmes in July and the UCI Road World Championships in Glasgow in August.
“If everything goes to plan, my first race will be the Vuelta,” Deignan wrote in a blog (opens in new tab) published on her team Trek-Segafredo website.
“I figured, why not jump back in at the deep end? The thing is, if you start with the Classics as I did after having [her first child] Orla, you end up losing so much training time with tapering and recovery it could take you seven weeks just to have seven race days. If I dive in with a stage race, I’ll have a week of racing under my belt straight away.
“I’m hoping that I’ll quickly regain the race rhythm and feel comfortable in the peloton. I’m sure the Vuelta will be a shock to the system, but hopefully, it’s the right choice!”
Deignan gave birth to her first child, daughter Orla, in 2018 and then made a successful comeback to professional cycling during the Ardennes Classics in April of 2019, going on to win The Women’s Tour in her first year back. In late 2021, she made history as the first female winner of Paris-Roubaix.
She announced last February that she would take maternity leave from racing to become a mother for a second time, welcoming her second child, son Shea, in September 2022. At that time, she also revealed that she would return to racing with Trek-Segafredo in 2023 and that she had signed a contract renewal until 2024.
Deignan explained in her blog that while her second pregnancy was more challenging than the first, she also felt that she recovered well. She began riding again four weeks postpartum and has gradually increased her base rides to about 20 hours per week, taking a holistic approach to her training with guidance from her coach and partner, Phil Deignan.
“At the time I’m writing this, it’s been four months since Shea’s birth, and I’ve just increased my training load to around 20 hours per week. At the moment, the training is all about building my base endurance,” she wrote.
“It’s really important that I don’t skip the foundations, so that means lots of miles and building my core strength back. I haven’t done much high-intensity work yet, but there’s no rush to do that with my first race planned for May.”
Rather than return during the Classics season, as she did in 2019, this time, she will begin racing at the revamped seven-day La Vuelta Femenina, which has moved from its traditional September spot on the calendar to May.
Although she hasn’t released her official race programme after the Vuelta, she would like to hit peak form mid-summer with a shot at the Tour de France Femmes from July 23-31.
This year’s route will be held across eight stages, with the Grand Départ set in the Massif Central in the city of Clermont-Ferrand, the capital of the Auvergne region. The 956km route will take the peloton south and into the Pyrénées, ending with a mountaintop finish on the iconic Col du Tourmalet on stage 7 and a stage 8 individual time trial in Pau.
Normally, the World Championships are held in late September; however, this year marks the inaugural combined ‘mega-event’ UCI Cycling World Championships held directly following the Tour de France Femmes from August 3-13 in Glasgow.
“I’ve planned a lot of race days between my comeback and the Tour de France Femmes because I’m a rider who likes to have lots of racing in the legs to reach my best condition. The Tour only finishes a week before the World Champs in Glasgow, so I would love to be hitting my peak form at that time,” wrote Deignan, who won the elite women’s road race world title in Richmond in 2015.
“Last year, I saw the Tour de France Femmes up close whilst working with Trek Travel and on TV. I felt like a fan and really soaked up the atmosphere, but at the same time, it was reassuring being there because I still had the urge to race. I really wanted to be on the other side of the fence with my teammates. I’m not ready to be a fan just yet!”