Olympian, multiple race-winning cyclist and mum-of-two, Lizzie Deignan MBE, talks getting back on the bike after pregnancy and being a role model.
You’re preparing to return to racing. How’s it going?
Lizzie Deignan MBE: ‘It’s been a bit stop-start since I gave birth to my son in September 2022, just because postpartum is a bit stop-start in lots of ways! But I’m really pleased with my progress and I’ll return to racing by May. I was cycling up until the day before I gave birth, although I wouldn’t describe it as training – more just keeping the legs spinning.
‘I was lucky to have a natural delivery without complications, but I still needed to take the full six weeks off to recover. The first few weeks are so intense looking after a newborn and I was breastfeeding as well, so it was exhilarating to get back on the bike after being literally attached to my baby.’
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What’s your view on cycling while pregnant?
‘As a professional cyclist, I’m aware of the risks of being on the road every day, pregnant or not, but I’ve come to accept it’s a part of my job, and I suppose I was of the same opinion during pregnancy. It wasn’t like there was an increased likelihood of crashing, so it came down to a personal decision about my mental health, really, although I minimalised the risks by avoiding the heat of the day and choosing routes in low-traffic areas.
‘Before being pregnant, I probably wouldn’t have thought I’d ride on the road while pregnant, but once you’re in that position yourself, nine months is a long time to stay indoors. Ultimately, it should always be the mum’s choice.’
How do you balance training with motherhood?
‘It’s a juggle. People always ask how I do it, but on the flipside, I look at women like my sister who have full-time 9-to-5 jobs and think, “How do they do it?”. I think I’m very fortunate that my job combines exercise and me-time – two things many women with other careers often struggle to fit in on top of work.
‘My five-hour endurance rides can be quite debilitating on my energy levels, but my husband and coach [former pro cyclist Philip Deignan] is a full-time father and can run his coaching business when the kids are in bed. We’re definitely a team.’
How does it feel to be a role model for female cyclists?
‘It happened by accident. My husband and I never sat down and said, “Let’s be trailblazers”. We just wanted to start a family and the rest is a by-product. People were quite bemused by my decision to have my son in 2018 during the “peak” of my career. They were making decisions for me based on the idea that, once you become a mum, you won’t be interested in elite sport afterwards. But I knew exactly who I was, and I knew I’d still want a career.
‘By the time I had my daughter, I think I’d proven my point, and I’d got the support of my new sponsor Trek, which made a huge difference. Trek understands that part of its marketplace is women buying bikes, so why alienate potentially half of your customers by not supporting a pregnant woman?’
Lizzie Deignan is an ambassador for Cycleplan, a specialist cycling insurer
Words: Joanna Ebsworth | Photography: Jim Carman