Britain may not have been able to claim a medal, or even a top-10, in Saturday’s elite women’s race in Flanders at the World Roads Championships, but 2015 winner Lizzie Deignan paid tribute to the strong team that proved to be a of the country’s best performances this year, with special praise for 22-year-old Anna Henderson.
It was Henderson who played the more prominent role, looking for moves during the open and attacking phase of the race around the Flanders loop and back towards the Leuven circuit. Deignan, meanwhile, played more like a waiting game, saving a big ball for the final throw of the race.
They were left with empty hands, without any of Henderson’s moves stinging, and Deignan eventually lacked legs at climax.
“Strange,” was Deignan’s introductory one-word summary of her day. “I went through all sorts of different sensations. I felt strong, I felt in shape, but I really lacked speed in the end. I could not follow when I needed it. I was boneless in the end.
“I had a good time in the climbing circuits, it was literally the speed of the Leuven circuit. We’re at the end of the season and that’s the first thing that goes. You can keep the shape in terms of your fitness, but not the top speed. ”
Deignan finished 14th, in the middle of the group of 25 riders contesting goals, while Henderson placed 25th, 49 seconds further back. Despite not having a result to show for it, Deignan was impressed with the team’s collective display, Britain had taken the reins of the approach to the Flanders loop before the leaders took on the meat of the meat.
“A huge shout out to my teammates. I saved so much energy thanks to them. I think it was the best GB performance we have done in a few years, so that is positive, ”said Deignan.
“Anna and I joined as joint leaders. Tactically, I did not feel that I would get the seat on the local laps anyway, so it was about her taking chances when they came and I waited for the sprint. I really expected more fireworks on the climbs around Overijse, but it did not happen.
“In the end, my plan was to try to surf the wheels. You do not know until you actually do a sprint at the World Cup how you are going to make it because everyone is boneless. I would try to stick to Vos’ wheel, but it was obviously a very controversial wheel. Just lost it on the last corner never came back. ”
Deignan said she was “really impressed” with Henderson and pointed out what a strong season she has had in her first year at Jumbo-Visma. The former skier has had something of a breakthrough with a number of prominent placements before taking her first full professional victories on the Tour de Belle Isle en Terre-Kreiz Breizh, where she won both stages and overalls.
In Flanders, she got a co-management opportunity with a former world champion, and she grabbed it with both hands and threw herself into the thick of the action.
“At first I was like ‘oh, I don’t know how my legs are going to feel’, but when we hit the Flanders circuit, my legs really woke up,” Henderson said. “On the local laps, I tried to follow everything and make sure that Lizzie could save energy. It was a case of making sure we had all the bases covered. We did everything right today, I think, but you can not win them all.
“There was a small opportunity for me to go after [leadership] and I enabled myself to do so. I just miss that experience. In the future I can get there with a little more experience under the guidance of Lizzie and the rest of British Cycling. ”
Flanders was actually her fourth appearance in an elite Worlds road race after making her debut as an 18-year-old back in Austria in 2018. On Saturday’s evidence, plenty more is to come.
“I blinked and it’s done. It’s so fast, really attractive, ”Henderson said. “Belgium just makes it special, the crowds were so big. I’m already looking forward to next year’s worlds. ”