Trek-Segafredo successfully defends the leader's jersey in the final stage and claims the top team of the race.
Although Lizzie Deignan won the Ovo Energy Women’s Tour in 2016, she came into this year’s edition with zero expectations to repeat that feat after more than a season away from competition and had low hopes for even a stage victory.
Of course, when you have a strong team around you that believes differently, one’s perspectives may be forced to change, and for Deignan they did.
“I was not bluffing; I did not expect this,” said an emotional Deignan. “I am incredibly surprised and grateful to my teammates. I am really overwhelmed with all the support [from fans] we received this week. I was here really to consolidate the first block of training and racing I have done, and my expectations were potentially if I got a good opportunity to go for a stage but thought that wouldn’t happen.”
I feel I am in the best team in the world from a support perspective, and all these awesome women around me lift me up.
- Lizzie Deignan
Deignan’s stage five victory was only possible with the self-sacrificing work of teammate Elisa Longo Borghini, and with a narrow one-second lead to defend in the final stage Saturday, it took the whole team to come together again for Deignan to claim the overall win. It only fitted that Trek-Segafredo also won the best team of the race, a deserved award.
“I think the last time I came here I was probably one of the favorites to win the race and this time I wasn’t a favorite. It was a different experience, and totally a team performance,” said Deignan, heaping praise on her teammates. “I was not as strong as Elisa (Longo Borghini) and Ellen (van Dijk) this week, they were phenomenal, and Anna (Plichta) and Abi (Van Twisk) worked liked horses. We lost Trixi (Worrack) [to a crash] but her fighting spirit lived on, so we did it with her too.”
The Trek-Segafredo team rallied around Deignan all week and did so again for the final stage. Coming into the last day needing to defend a precarious one-second advantage over Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) was never going to be easy, but the team was ready.
Ellen van Dijk jumped into the days’ breakaway, and Anna Plichta and Abi Van Twisk again controlled the move, putting in the selfless grunt work to make sure it didn’t gain too much time with the best-placed rider in the escape group at one minute.
“It was hard today, it was tactical, we rode defensively, and everyone fulfilled their job perfectly. I really have to say thank you to Abi and Anna – they rode phenomenally today again,” said Deignan.
Black Mountain was the biggest obstacle of the race but came far from the finish and with the breakaway up the road, it was covered without incident. Trek-Segafredo hoped the breakaway would gobble up the bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint, but everything was back together, and Deignan had to be attentive again.
Deignan explained: “It was hectic all day long, you couldn’t lose focus, and obviously we only had one second on Kasia. My main concern was Black Mountain, and then we were hoping the breakaway would stay away through the intermediate sprint, but it didn’t, and I had to get my sprinting legs on again. Once I had that second and were up two seconds, it was a good position for us.”
Doubling her lead gave a little more breathing room, but with the time bonuses on the finish line, it was not over.
“The priority was to beat Kasia and not have any gaps, especially in a final like this with so many corners and that you have not seen before,” continued Deignan. “I positioned myself with the help of Ellen and Elisa onto the back of the Boels-Dolmans train, and there’s no coming around those girls! So I was happy to be where I was.”
Keeping herself in a good position for the chaotic bunch sprint, Deignan rolled home in eighth place and ahead of Niewiadoma to seal up the win, her biggest this season and her first as a mother:
“Grit and determination helped me, I am away from my daughter for a reason, I am here to do a job, and I have a fantastic team around me that I did not want to let down,” pointed out Deignan. “Yesterday was the first time I thought I had a chance for the GC. The whole race has been pretty open because of the bonus seconds, which made it hard to predict. I am delighted. I just can’t wait to see Orla at home, I am really proud – of myself and my family for all the help they have given me to be here.”
“The perspective you gain from having a year out of professional sport is amazing. My attitude is just about enjoying it, I never had that attitude before, and it’s paying dividends. I feel I am in the best team in the world from a support perspective, and all these awesome women around me lift me up.”