Lizzie Armitstead Interview: “I’m a road cyclist in my own right”
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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Lizzie Armitstead Interview: “I’m a road cyclist in my own right”

by Ben Atkins at 5:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Track, Olympics
 
Olympic silver medallist leaving teammates behind as she transfers to Boels-Dolmans team

lizzie armitsteadLizzie Armitstead (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) climbed onto a track bike for the first time in more than a year this week, to take part in the first ever women’s Omnium, in the Revolution series at the Manchester velodrome. Since Armitstead was to be rekindling her Olympic rivalry with gold medallist Marianne Vos (Rabobank), the women were given top billing at the event, which was a big reason she had taken some time out of her off season to pull on some race clothes for the night.

Afforded that platform that her Olympic medal has brought her, the 23-year-old Yorkshirewoman has been outspoken about the sexual inequality of cycling - where men get air-conditioned buses and multi-million pound contracts, while the women's sport struggles for its very existence - she was obviously pleased to be able to race at one of the UK's biggest track events.

“I think it’s really important that Revolution have put on a women’s race, and I support it,’ Armitstead told VeloNation in the track centre. “Especially after the hoohah I made, it would be a bit silly if I said no just because I was unfit. It’s just that people have paid to come and watch me and Marianne so, if after a full season, I feel like a bit of a fat old woman…

Armitstead will be joining her fifth team in as many years come January, but it is not wanderlust that will see her pull on so many different jerseys. The Cervélo TestTeam, which she had ridden for in 2010, was absorbed into the Garmin-Cervélo team in 2011 but, when the budget proved too tight to run the team in 2012, she and her teammates went to the AA Drink-Leontien.nl team en masse.

With this team also folding at the end of the season, its riders are having to look elsewhere again, which sees Armitstead sign for Boels-Dolmans. The question on many British lips though, is why didn’t she join the new DTPC-Honda, where the team pursuit trio of Dani King, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott are heading, along with World junior time trial champion Elinor Barker.

“Because I got a better offer,” Armitstead stated matter-of-factly. “I think [DTPC-Honda] is a good pathway for track cyclists, but I’m a road cyclist in my own right, so I wanted to be in a place that was best for me, and Dolmans-Boels was.

“It’s a professional team, they’ve got ambition, I get everything I need from them, and that’s why…”

One key figure that will be following Armitstead from AA Drink-Leontien.nl will be directeur sportif Danny Stam, with whom she has enjoyed her working relationship this year.

“Exactly, that was a massive part of if for me,” she said. “I think, if you can find a directeur that you are able to get on with, and can get the best out of you, that’s quite unique. I seem to be useless at working with people, but there you go!”

lizzie armitsteadWhile Stam may be coming with her, as well as fellow Briton Lucy Martin and Belgian Jessie Daams, the end of the AA Drink-Leontien.nl team means splitting up a group of riders that have been together for three or four years. British riders Emma Pooley and Sharon Laws are both off to different teams, with Pooley stepping down a level to Team Bigla in Switzerland as she finishes her PhD, and Laws heading across to Lotto-Belisol.

“I’ll miss Sharon and Emma, but it’s time to move on, and you learn from new teammates and I’m excited to be with new people,” Armitstead said. “I like change, it’s exciting.

“I think where Sharon’s gone is a great place,” she added; having ridden for the Belgian team herself in 2009. “So I think she’ll get a lot of opportunities, and you’ll probably see her up there a lot more than she has been, because she’ll be able to race for herself a lot more. So that’s a good thing.”

Aside from her Olympic silver medal, last spring saw Armitstead’s biggest successes of the season, where she won the Omloop van het Hageland, then took the inaugural women’s Gent-Wevelgem. This should be the case again in 2013, as the tenacious Yorshirewoman will hope to thrive in the cold and rain of Belgium once more.

“I’m targeting Flanders,’ she said. “That’s the main goal for me, and then the Glasgow nationals are pretty important, to have a run for the Commonwealths, and then there’s the road Worlds.”

The Great Britain championships should see the trio of Armitstead, Laws and Pooley race against each other as adversaries for the first time in years. Pooley took the iconic white jersey with the red and blue bands in 2010, Armitstead in 2011, and Laws in 2012, as the three teammates took on ten-time champion Nicole Cooke.

Armitstead will likely be the big favourite to take the jersey back from Laws in June, but recognises that the hilly course of the World championships later in the season will mean she has to work on certain areas of her racing.

“I think my climbing has got to improve,” she admitted. “It’s not looking great at the moment, but I promise you there’s some strength work going in!”

The Revolution saw a repeat of the London 2012 result, with Vos coming out on top again but, having pushed the Dutch phenomenon so close in the Olympic road race - and having seen Evie Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) best the 25-year-old at Flèche Wallonne - Armitstead feels that the sport is catching Vos up.

“Definitely,” she said. “Last year every race was like a World championships, it was impossible. It was so, so hard, because all the girls wanted to get selected.

“Every year I’ve raced it’s just got better and better, but unfortunately for us Marianne is a bit of a phenomenon, but I’m confident that we’ll catch her up.”

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