6. The Lizzie Armitstead interview

Feb 24, 2016, 07:07 PM

February 25 | This week’s Telegraph Cycling Podcast features an exclusive interview with world champion Lizzie Armitstead ahead of her season debut at Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday We also hear from the former double junior world champion, Lucy Garner, who has joined British team Wiggle-High5.

Armitstead looks ahead to her big target for 2016, the Rio Olympic road race, but also takes us back to her early days as a cyclist. She was ‘talent spotted’ at school in Otley, Yorkshire, as part of a British Cycling initiative when London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games.

Although initially part of the British system, and having been inspired by attending a track World Cup and seeing Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy, she turned her back on the British track-focused programme, opting for road racing on the continent instead. She now rides for the Dutch team Boels-Dolmans.

“I loved the unpredictability, the travel, the teammates, I just loved road racing,” says Armitstead. At British Cycling, she explains, “You had to become part of a team in so many ways, training as a unit every day, and I just didn’t like that aspect of it. I felt I wasn’t fulfilling my training needs as an individual. I struggled with it. It wasn’t the beauty of cycling, chasing your dreams in the beautiful scenery – that’s what I missed.”

Armitstead is an all-rounder with a strong sprint, though not a pure sprinter. At the world championships in Richmond, Virginia, her job was to eliminate the sprinters – at the Rio Olympics, on a more mountainous course, her rivals’ job will be to eliminate her. Having been to inspect the Rio course, her verdict is: “Brutal. There’s nothing nice or easy about it. The person who wins the Olympic road race will be the strongest.”

In her bid to upgrade her silver medal at the London Olympics to gold in Rio she is working on her climbing. “There’s a hilly way home and there’s a flat way home,” she says. “And I haven’t taken the flat road home in 2016 yet.”

The Telegraph Cycling Podcast is supported by Trainer Road and Eurosport.