A first day is never easy. The butterflies sensation fill your stomach and your mind is left wandering what the day will hold. It is especially hard for women who come back after maternity leave, having had their lives completely changed with a new addition to their family. But for Lizzie Deignan this is her second time returning to the professional peloton after maternity leave, and no amount of nerves is wavering her confidence in her abilities to be riding with the best.
The Trek-Segafredo rider is perhaps the most notable proof that female cyclists can have children and still come back to winning races. After having her daughter Orla in 2018, Deignan returned the following season in 2019 and went on to win the Women’s Tour the same year. Before announcing she was expecting a second child in September 2022, Deignan had added an impressive list of victories next to her name, including Paris-Roubaix Femmes, Tour de Suisse Women’s and Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes.
Six months after giving birth to her son, Deignan is making her 2023 debut at La Flèche Wallonne – one of the toughest one-day races in the Women’s WorldTour calendar. However, this was not the original plan for the 34-year-old rider. Trek-Segafredo haven’t had the best of luck so far this season with injuries and illnesses, so Deignan has been called into action two weeks earlier than expected.
In a press conference ahead of her come back race, she said: “I did plan to have a bit longer to prepare for the Vuelta [La Vuelta Feminina] as I just thought that would have been a nicer, easier transition, but you know, professional sport isn’t about what is easier or nicer all the time.
“At the end of the day, I am a teammate and it’s really important for me to support them. I could see that they were struggling in terms of filling the spots and it would be silly for me to be at home training, when actually I can get the same things I need from racing. It just means I am not going to be as comfortable in starting as I would have liked. But you know the Vuelta is only two weeks away, it’s not like I’ve been called up two months early.”
Lizzie Deignan was the first ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes winner
The British rider was welcomed back with open arms by her team at Trek-Segafredo, who she has been with since 2019 and who have supported her throughout both her pregnancies. However, she knows that Flèche Wallonne may not be the warmest of welcomes back to…
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