During what has been a historic year for women’s cycling, 2015 world road race champion Lizzie Deignan has enjoyed a few personal, off-the-bike landmarks of her own. In September, the Trek-Segafredo rider and her husband (and retired Irish pro) Philip welcomed their second child Shea, and this weekend the 34-year-old has been recognised for her services to cycling in the 2023 New Year Honours list by being made an MBE, while BMX legend Ken Floyde was awarded a British Empire Medal.
Deignan has put together a stellar palmarès during her 14-year-long professional career, which incudes that stunning world championships victory in Richmond, Virginia in 2015 and wins at Strade Bianche, the Tour of Flanders, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda (twice), the GP de Plouay (three times), the Women’s Tour (twice) and the Tour de Yorkshire, as well as taking an impressive silver medal behind Marianne Vos in the road race at the 2012 London Olympics.
But it is the Yorkshire rider’s continued success following the birth of her daughter, Orla, in 2018 that has arguably proved the biggest source of inspiration for other women in cycling, and sport in general.
Since her return to the peloton in 2019, Deignan has won La Course by Le Tour de France, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and – most memorably – the inaugural edition of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes in October 2021, in which she made history via a staggering 82km solo escape in grisly, wet conditions.
In February, Deignan announced that she would miss the 2022 racing season as she awaited the arrival of son Shea, and that she had also – in another sign of the progressive influence she’s had on the sport – extended her contract with Trek-Segafredo through 2023 and 2024.
Like the damehood awarded last year to another racing mother, Laura Kenny, Deignan’s MBE arguably represents more than just her results on the road.
“It’s a bit surreal,” Deignan told the Yorkshire Post after receiving the honour. “It makes you feel proud. To be recognised for services to cycling, it’s more than just a result. It will have a bit more longevity. When I’m 50 or 60 I’ll still have my MBE but my results will be long gone.”
Asked if the honour might be recognition for her status as a role model for other women in sport, Deignan replied: “I hope so. It was never about the intention to inspire, it was about the intention to start a family for us.
“It’s kind of borne out of things that have driven me personally – to my own results, but also to start a family. Those are very personal.
“The inspiration or impactfulness has come as a by-product or as an accident. I suppose I’m never shy about giving my opinion and that has perhaps contributed to it being a bit more impactful I hope.”
Remarking on the shift in attitude, even in recent years, towards pregnancy in elite sport, Deignan continued: “I would like to think I’ve given other women the confidence to choose motherhood but also for sponsors and teams to acknowledge that it is possible and it can be supported successfully.
“The reaction to both pregnancies couldn’t have been more different and it suggests to me there has been a huge shift in people’s mindsets.
“When I announced I was pregnant with Orla, people were more vocal about the fact I was walking away from my career at the top of the sport, and why did I expect to get support or maternity rights?
“But it was just congratulations when I announced my pregnancy with Shea. There was no question Trek would support me. I think they’ve led the way in making it impossible for other teams to treat me the way I was treated the first time. It’s dramatically different.”
Earlier this month, Deignan told her Instagram followers that her “conservative plan” was to return to racing in May, but the 34-year-old has hinted that, with little pressure from either herself or her Trek-Segafredo team for immediate results, she may even be back in the peloton sooner than expected.
“Who knows?” she said. “I only want to start to race if I can contribute to the result and help the team. The last time I wanted to come back ready to win but I feel the pressure for that is off this time.
“I don’t have anything to prove in that way so I might start racing earlier.”
Picking up a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours was Ken Floyde, the Chair of Brixton BMX club who also founded it way back in 1981.
A hugely influential figure in the development of BMX in South London and beyond for decades, Floyde was directly involved in the building of the first Brockwell Park BMX track in 1990, and was a mentor in developing talents such as the legendary BMX showman Charlie Reynolds.
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.