Great Britain may not have been able to win a medal, or even a top 10, in Saturday’s elite women’s road race in Flanders at the World Road Championships, but the 2015 winner, Lizzie Deignan hailed the solid squad as one of the country’s best performances in years, with special praise for 22-year-old Anna Henderson.
It was Henderson who played the most important role, looking for movement during the open and offensive phase of the race around the Flandrien loop and back to the Leuven circuit. Deignan, meanwhile, played more of a waiting game, saving a big ball for the final throws of the race.
They walked away empty-handed, none of Henderson’s movements stick and Deignan eventually ran out of legs at the climax.
“Bizarre” was the first one-word summary of his day in Deignan. “I went through all kinds of different sensations. I felt strong, I felt in good shape, but I really lacked speed in the end. I couldn’t keep up when I needed to. I was legless at the end of it.
“I felt good on the climbing circuits, it was literally the speed of the Leuven circuit. We’re at the end of the season and it’s kind of the first thing that happens. You can stay in shape in terms of physical condition but not that top speed.
Deignan finished 14th, in the middle of the group of 25 riders who contested the finish, while Henderson finished 25th, 49 seconds later. Although he had no results to show, Deignan was impressed with the team’s collective performance, with Great Britain taking the reins as the Flandrien Loop approached before the leaders took the flesh. of the race.
“Well done to my teammates. I saved so much energy thanks to them. I think it’s the best British performance we’ve had in a few years, so it’s positive, ”said Deignan.
“Me and Anna came in as joint chefs. Tactically I didn’t feel like I had space on the local laps anyway, so it was about her grabbing the opportunities when they came and me waiting for the sprint. I really expected more fireworks in the climbs around Overijse, but that didn’t happen.
“In the end my plan was to try to ride the wheels. You don’t know, until you sprint at the World Championships, how you’re going to do because everyone is legless. I wanted to try and stick to the Vos wheel, but it was obviously a very contested wheel. I just lost him in this last corner and never came back.
Deignan said she was “really impressed” with Henderson, pointing out how she had had a solid season in her first year at Jumbo-Visma. The former skier had a breakthrough of sorts, with a streak of top spots before securing her first full professional victories at the Tour de Belle Isle en Terre-Kreiz Breizh, where she won both stages and the overall standings.
In Flanders, she had a co-leadership opportunity alongside a former world champion and she grabbed it with both hands, throwing herself into the heart of the action.
“At first I was like ‘oh, I don’t know how my legs are going to feel’, but once we reached the Flandrien circuit my legs really woke up,” said Henderson. “On the local tours I tried to keep track of everything and make sure Lizzie could save energy. This was to make sure all the bases were covered. We did everything right today, I think, but you can’t win them all.
“There was a small opportunity for me to go [leadership] and I set about doing it. I just miss this experience. In the future, with a little more experience under the guidance of Lizzie and the rest of British Cycling, I can make it happen.
Flanders was actually their fourth appearance in an elite world road race, having made their debut at the age of 18 in Austria in 2018. Based on Saturday’s evidence, there will be many more. future.
“I blinked and it was over. It’s so fast, really attritional, ”said Henderson. “Belgium makes it special, the crowds were so big. I’m already looking forward to the Worlds next year.