Lizzie Armitstead eyes gold at Rio 2016

Lizzie Armitstead is already focusing on adding Olympic gold to the rainbow jersey after a phenomenal win in the Road Cycling World Championships.

Lizzie Armitstead poses in the rainbow jersey after her victory at the Road Cycling World Championships in Virginia. Picture: Getty

The 26-year-old from Otley will wear the world champion’s white jersey with rainbow bands for the next 12 months after a sensational win in Saturday’s 130-kilometre race in Richmond, Virginia.

Armitstead fulfilled a lifelong dream after a series of near misses in the World Championships, adding to her 2012 Olympic silver medal and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold, plus two successive World Cup series wins.

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Rio is now the major target for the Yorkshirewoman, who won Britain’s first medal of London 2012.

“That would surpass this if I could achieve that,” said Armitstead as she reflected on her victory.

“That will be my focus now for the next 12 months. All in for Rio.”

Armitstead is still struggling to come to terms with her achievement after an hour’s sleep – due to celebrations and restlessness.

She added: “I can’t get my head around it yet, really. I’m just so focused on the process all the time.

“Crossing the line and being world champion, I’ve always dreamt about it and now I’ve done it. It’s quite a surreal feeling, but obviously very special. Very happy.”

Armitstead was pictured grasping her mouth in an emotional celebration after her near misses, particularly last year in Ponferrada, when a tactical hesitation proved costly.

“I’ve got in trouble from a few people for not putting my hands up in the air,” she added.

“It was absolute shock. You’ve got all that 130km of being totally focused and as soon as you cross the line it takes a few seconds to realise what’s happened.

“All the failures I’ve had in the past, ups and downs, just makes it more special.”

Armitstead is normally so relaxed, but felt the expectation of being favourite after a fine season.

“I was so nervous on the morning of the race; I’ve never been that nervous before,” she added.

“As soon as I was on the bike I was fine. I was in control.”

The celebrations that followed took place on both sides of the Atlantic, with the Armitstead family revelling in the win along with Philip Deignan, the Irish Team Sky cyclist who is Armitstead’s fiancé.

She said: “I only got to my phone an hour after I won. Everyone I spoke to was already on their way. It was pretty late back home and they weren’t making much sense.”

Armitstead’s celebrations were with her team-mates – Lucy Garner, Alice Barnes, Molly Weaver, Jessie Walker and Hayley Simmonds – and American Evelyn Stevens, her Boels-Dolmans colleague.

“We went out as a team and we met up with Evelyn Stevens for her bachelorette party,” Armitstead said.

“It was just good fun. Bubbles, dancing, tequila. It was good.”

Armitstead became the fourth British woman to win the rainbow jersey after Beryl Burton, Mandy Jones and Nicole Cooke, who won Olympic and world gold in 2008.

“It’s definitely an elite club,” Armitstead said. “There’s a big tradition in British women’s cycling.

“There’s been a lot of champions before me and I’m sure there will be ahead of me.”

It is her second world title after a team pursuit success at the 2009 Track Cycling World Championships, but this one means far more.

“It’s totally different. That feels like a lifetime ago,” she said. “I was a different rider back then. This, to me, means a lot more.”

As for her jersey, Armitstead said: “It’s not had much chance to rest – it could do with a wash.”