Since allegations from Jess Varnish came to light last year, British Cycling has been under scrutiny over their treatment of professional athletes, especially women. Varnish herself was told to ‘go and have a baby’ by former technical director Shane Sutton and since then more and more athletes have come forward to support her claims. The latest rider to share her experiences is road champion, Lizzie Deignan (formerly Armitstead).
The 28-year-old road cyclist has spoken out about her experiences in the lead up to her forthcoming autobiography, due out next month. One such deflating experience was on the day she became the world champion in 2015 and team manager, Brian Stephens, chose not to attend in favour of watching the men’s junior team. Lizzie told the Guardian paper: “There was a lack of leadership. They let me down big time.”
Many awful situations arose over the course of Lizzie’s career included women having to “borrow helmets from men, then being told they would be banned if they did not return them”. A shocking event happened to Lizzie when she was just 19 and on tour with the Cervelo professional team. The team were throwing a birthday celebration for one of the male cyclists in the lobby of a hotel. Lizzie was upstairs asleep until she was awoken and told to go downstairs and take part in a dance competition. While her male colleagues sat and watched on, Lizzie explains that she felt confused and foolish as the only woman there.
In addition to poor treatment and bullying, Lizzie explains how pay inequality seriously affected her career. Her take-home winnings from the 2015 World Champion race was £2,000 while her male counterpart received £20,000.
Other female cyclists to have come forward supporting Jess Varnish’ claims are retired champion, Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke, with Lizzie Deignan being the latest to voice her story.
In her forthcoming book, entitled ‘Steadfast’, Lizzie takes you on a journey through the life of a champion athlete with further details on the good, the bad and the ugly.
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