Published: 25 September 2013
Report: Scott Hobro
Image: Vaughn Ridley/swpix.com
Olympic silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead says she will need to perform out of her skin in order to challenge for honours in the elite women’s UCI Road World Championships race.
The 24-year-old finished tenth in the team time trial in Florence with Boels-Dolmans and will be part of the Great Britain squad for the 140-kilometre race this Saturday alongside Katie Colclough, Nikki Harris and Lucy Garner.
Armitstead was not present for the 2012 championships after an intense year built towards her success in London but took top ten finishes in the 2010 (9th) and 2011 (7th) instalments.
And the British road champion now wants to improve on those results and win a first medal in the championships.
“It’s always hard to miss a world championships,” Armitstead said. “I think this one is going to be extremely difficult from all the rumours I have heard from people who have seen the course, but I’ve got nothing to lose so I’m excited.”
Two testing climbs feature on a finishing circuit which riders will navigate five climbs, the 4.3-kilometre Fiesole and the short but sharp Via Salviati with an average gradient of 10.2 per cent and a maximum of 16 per cent.
“As a rider I hope I’m one that can peak for the big days. I’ve been thinking about the road world championships, it’s not an ideal course for me but hopefully I can perform out of my skin and do something.”
Since winning a senior British road title for a second time in Glasgow in June, Armitstead has taken 15 top ten individual finishes and third in the general classification at the Boels Ladies Tour, form she described as ‘consistently average’.
Health problems have beleaguered the former team pursuit world champion’s road campaign, who is ready for a period of recuperation after this weekend.
“It’s been a difficult season,” Armitstead said. “I’ve had health issues, I’m looking forward to the end of the season when I can rest and get something sorted and look forward to 2014 when I hope I will have that strong feeling back again.
“At the moment I’ve struggled to feel good all season so it is a case of fingers crossed for the world championships. I know the form isn’t bad, if I have a good day and the race goes my way I think I can still do something.”
The experienced Emma Pooley and Nicole Cooke, who were both integral elements of the British team which helped Armitstead to her London medal, will be absent. Pooley is currently taking a break from road racing while Cooke retired in January.
Two-time junior road world champion Lucy Garner makes her senior worlds debut while Colcough and Harris have both featured in the previous editions.
“We had a strong team at the Olympics and Nicole has retired and Emma has had a year off, Sharon (Laws) had a very bad accident,” Armitstead said.
“We are missing experienced riders,” she added. “But I think it’s great Lucy Garner has been given the opportunity for a big experience and I think we’ll have to play the fact we have a smaller squad to our advantage, hide in the race and look for opportunities.”
Armitstead will go on to race in this winter’s Revolution Track Series and is accomplished on the boards with a world championship victory in the team pursuit in 2009 followed by silver in the event in 2010.
Though the women’s team pursuit has expanded to a four-person, four-kilometre event for parity with the men’s discipline, she admits a return is unlikely and in any case would require a huge commitment.
“I definitely miss the track but whether I miss the team pursuit is a different matter,” Armitstead admitted.
“I really do just miss the points racing and the scratch racing, I miss that aspect of it.
“I try to keep the door open but it’s not like I could just walk in to the team pursuit, it’s a totally different event now from when I was riding it. You’ve got to do that and nothing else I think.”