Lizzie Armitstead is ready to fight for the British road race title she won in 2011 and 2013 in spite of the heavy crash she sustained at stage one of the Aviva Women’s Tour.
Just 11 days out from the biggest one-day domestic event of the year in Lincoln, Armitstead proved her form, winning the opening stage of the second Women’s Tour into Aldeburgh, only to crash heavily moments later.
Despite initial fears, the 26-year-old got off lightly, with bruising, a dead leg, a sore wrist and some headaches, but insists that she is ready to take back the title she won two years ago in Glasgow.
"Today was my first proper training ride,” said the UCI Women Road World Cup leader on Tuesday five days before the elite women’s road race.
“I felt okay, the leg was a bit tired towards the end but way better than I expected to be so all set for the nationals."
While Armitstead admits that a self-enforced recuperation over the period of the Women’s Tour hasn’t been ideal, she is confident that she’s lost none of the form that has seen her win the last three races that she’s competed in.
The Boels Dolmans rider’s winning streak started at the UCI 1.1 Boels Rental Hills Classic in the Netherlands in April, before a May win The Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic propelled her to the top of the UCI Women Road World Cup rankings.
Her stage one win at the Aviva Women’s Tour completed the hat trick before the break in her momentum.
"It's more mental,” explained Armitstead, “I think I'll miss the racing speed I would have gained from five days racing in the UK - it would have been fast, sprinty type – it would have been good for the nationals and difficult to replicate on your own in training.”
"You have your heart set on five days of racing,” she said. “It's difficult to readjust and think, 'okay I've been on the sofa while everyone else has been racing’ but it's not been long enough to lose form anyway.
"I had a good run into that - the last three races I'd done I won them,” the Otley-born rider continued.
“It's gone better than I expected so I think the form is good enough to be able to win the race. It's just whether the race goes my way and I feel good on the day."
In Armitstead’s language, the race going her way means a tough race with an elite selection, with the race decided more on individual strength rather than team tactics.
"Nationals is always difficult," said Armitstead, who finished in bronze medal position in 2014 behind Wiggle Honda's Laura Trott and Dani King.
"It's quite a tactical race so the harder it is the better, then it comes down to who's the strongest in the race."
Along with the likes of Nikki Harris, Sharon Laws and Hannah Barnes, Armitstead is a rider who competes for an overseas trade team, parachuted solo into an event packed with large, strong domestic teams; notably Wiggle Honda, Matrix Fitness and Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International, the latter squad catching the eye of the two-time British champ.
“I think from the little knowledge I've got of the racing they've done - they're an aggressive team so I think they will try and put me on the back foot and try and attack,” said Armitstead of a Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International squad stacked with British talent, including Dame Sarah Storey, Joanna Rowsell, Katie Archibald and Ciara Horne.
"They've got those strong girls who can - if they do get a gap - they'll be difficult to pull back in even solo - you've got the time triallers in there and the team pursuit riders as well."
However Armitstead is relishing the cobbled climb of Michaelgate on Lincoln’s finishing circuit, a parcours upon which the Belgium-based rider excels.
This and the hope of a positive, attacking race is spurring Armitstead on as she works out the last effects of her Women’s Tour crash ready for the title race on Sunday.
"It's perfect for me,” said Armitstead of the finishing circuit made famous by previous editions of the Lincoln Grand Prix . “My favourite kind of races are those spring classics that have got those short, steep cobbled climbs in them.
“I would say that they're my speciality so it should be a nice finish for me. I'm pretty excited about the finish."
The elite women’s road race starts at 10.05am on Lincoln’s Burton Road and is scheduled to finish at around 1:00pm near Lincoln Castle.
How to follow the racing
- Live reporting on the British Cycling website from 9am covering the women’s and men’s races.
- Live coverage on British Eurosport (Sky channel 412 or 410 for HD) (Virgin channel 521 or 522 for HD) from 11:30am joining the women’s race and continuing until the end of the men’s race.
- Updates on Twitter @BritishCycling.
- A one-hour highlights programme on ITV4 (Freeview channel 24, Sky channel 120, Virgin channel 118) on Monday 29 June from 6pm.