Lizzie Deignan Is One to Watch at La Vuelta Femenina

9th la vuelta femenina 2023 stage 1
Lizzie Deignan:One to Watch at La Vuelta FemeninaDario Belingheri - Getty Images

Professional cycling and motherhood used to be an oxymoron. Today, Trek-Segafredo rider Lizzie Deignan, an Olympic medalist and World Champion, proves that both can coexist at the highest level of women's cycling. As Deignan prepared to line up for the newly revamped La Vuelta Femenina on Monday, she’ll be an inspiration to teams that previously scoffed at the idea of racers returning to the peloton post-pregnancy and competitors aiming to strike a similar work-life balance.

Just seven months after the birth of her son Shea, Deignan made her 2023 debut in Liège at La Flèche Wallonne. After finishing the 127.3-kilometer race, Deignan told Cycling Pro Net, “Women’s cycling is getting stronger and stronger, and there’s no easy race to return to anymore. I know it's gonna be painful wherever I start.”

A few days later, Deignan was back in the peloton for Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes- a race she won in 2020 when she attacked the peloton with 50 kilometers to go and held her own to the finish line. This year, Deignan worked to help teammate Elisa Longo Borghini take second place.

With La Vuelta Femenina starting Monday, Deignan, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix winner, set her expectations ahead of the seven-day stage race.

“I decided to include this event in my schedule pretty early. Following my experience with my first child, I knew I needed six or seven months to get back to decent racing fitness. La Vuelta Femenina fits in a perfect place on the calendar. It is going to be a really big challenge for me and also a very nice race. The course has a couple of flatter days on which I can hopefully find my racing mindset again and maybe add something to my teammates on the hilly days,” said Deignan in an interview with

During a team time trial in Stage 1 at the La Vuelta, Deignan’s Trek-Segafredo placed third, nine seconds off the winners from Jumbo-Visma and one second off second-place Canyon//SRAM.

Even before Shea’s birth, Deignan was preparing for La Vuelta. She rode during her pregnancy and even at the end. “I rode the day before I gave birth—so I was pedaling right until the end.”

In addition to keeping physically fit, Deignan rode throughout her pregnancy to maintain her mental health. “If I was not to cycle, it would be a big risk for my mental health. Nine months is a long time to not go out and exercise. I always took every precaution I could for cycling. I never went out in the middle of the day, when it was hot, or on routes with a lot of traffic. But I definitely needed to ride my bike to keep my mental health in a good place.”

After delivery, Deignan shared that “it took me three months of riding in order to regain the capacity to train and put some work in my legs. I had to get accustomed to riding my bike without a bump. Besides, taking care of a newborn takes so much energy.” She also breastfed until her son turned six months old.

Compared to her daughter Orla, born in 2018, Deignan concedes that the second time around is not like riding a bike.

“I guess every pregnancy is different. With my daughter Orla, which was my first pregnancy, I felt I recovered faster than with Shea. In this second pregnancy, I gained more kilos and picked up more fatigue, so I couldn’t ride that much, and I lost more fitness. Some people say that a boy takes a bigger toll on a mum’s body than a girl, and I would agree with that, in my experience.”

As 34-year-old Deignan settles back into race mode, the mother of two, who previously had no plans to return to racing after giving birth in 2018, wants to win “I always thought that becoming a mum would shorten my career, but in fact, it has prolonged my career,” Deignan told the Guardian.

With Trek-Segafredo’s support, Deignan is signed through 2024. She credits the team with supporting her with “full maternity pay…flexibility” and “they haven’t put any pressure on me to race before I am ready.” To this end, Deignan is preparing for stiff competition from Trek-Segafredo’s Women’s World Tour rival SD Worx.

“Both teams have a lot of talent on their rosters and riders who are pretty good at sacrificing their own ambitions for others. We want to win every race – it doesn’t matter who wins as long as it is a Trek-Segafredo. I see the same at SD Worx, and that’s why they are so hard to beat. It’s quite a leveled-up match.”

To level the field at La Vuelta Femenina, Deignan shares, “My role will be supporting them to the fullest. I am sure some of my teammates will be in contention for victory.”

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