Lizzie Deignan takes Trek-Segafredo reins as Balsamo crashes out of RideLondon

 Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) in the points jersey after stage 1 of RideLondon
Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) in the points jersey after stage 1 of RideLondon

Lizzie Deignan (Trek Segafredo) made the most of a secondary plan as she and her teammates were forced to attack stage 1 of the RideLondon Classic after their sprinter, Elisa Balsamo, abandoned the race.

Deignan finished third on the day behind winner Charlotte Kool (Team DSM) and Clara Copponi (FDJ-SUEZ) on the uphill run to the line in Colchester. She sits third in the general classification, eight seconds behind Kool.

With her third-place finish, Deignan also secured her place as the best overall British rider and red jersey wearer in Britain's only remaining World Tour race.

Balsamo, a former World Champion, crashed twice in the first half of the 149.7km route that finished in Colchester before stepping off the bike. Trek-Segafredo tweeted that she had 'no serious injuries' from the incidents.

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"The plan at the beginning of the day was to go for a sprint with Elisa Balsamo, unfortunately, she crashed out, so I'm just proud of the team that we made the best of a bad situation and got a podium place," Deignan said after returning to a World Tour podium for the first time since her second maternity leave.

"Ina Teutenberg, our director, is very good from the car at making sure everybody had that little moment to take a breather because it's hard to hear that your teammate has crashed out.

"She allowed us that time and then said 'Right girls, time to refocus and attack this race because we don't have a sprinter anymore,' so we had to attack."

Deignan first tried to get away solo but after that was stifled she hit the front again with 29km to go and started drilling the pace with Loretta Hanson (Trek Segafredo) which caused the eventual race-defining split of 14 riders.

Unfortunately for Trek-Segafredo, the pre-race favourite, Kool had made it into the front group with key domestique and British star, Pfeiffer Georgi. They would work to put off any further attacks as they wanted to keep it together for Kool to sprint.

They also had Soraya Paladin (Canyon-SRAM) disrupting their efforts as she tried to allow her teammates Maike van der Duin and Chloe Dygert to bridge the gap to the front following an unfortunate crash near some road furniture.

"There wasn't as much collaboration as I would have liked. I understand that everybody has their own agenda in that group and of course, most of those riders had a sprinter in the group," said Deignan.

The former World Champion was delighted to be back fighting for the win however, the last of which for her came at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes in 2021.

"I think you need to be in the mix to try and win races because it's all about feelings, not hesitating and going on the right wheels which I do still feel is missing a bit. It was good to be going for a win because I've not been in that position yet [since returning]," said Deignan.

"The more I do that, the easier they will get. It was cool to be there."

Deignan has made good progress since her return, racing in both the Ardennes Classics and at La Vuelta Femenina and was happy to see her form on a trajectory that she didn't see coming so soon.

"I didn't expect to be on the podium, I thought I was still a way off podiums," Deignan said.

"I've been working really hard and working hard within races and I know that's the best way to get fitness. I've enjoyed being a teammate but also it's nice to have my own opportunity today.

"I felt really strong and I had good legs today so I hope I wake up with the same ones tomorrow."

Deignan said in a pre-race press conference that tomorrow's stage in Maldon probably suits her the best and would be the best chance for a breakaway, so expect to see her and her teammates back on the attack again. Stage 2 is 137.1km long and is better suited for the punchier climbers with three laps of a 22km circuit that contains North Hill before another uphill run the line.

When asked how she and her teammates would approach the parcours with Balsamo now out Deignan replied: "With nothing to lose."