World, Commonwealth and National Road Race Champion, Lizzie Armitstead is still only 26 and has the cycling world at her feet. But is she's going to give it all up for marriage and family life?
The Olympic medal winner and newly crowned World Champion, announced her engagement to Team Sky's Philip Deignan on Facebook last month, just before her outstanding victory at the UCI World Championships in Richmond, Virginia.
Lizzie was in tears as she crossed the finish line of the the 130km race, winning by a wheel to take the gold medal and the coveted rainbow jersey. She is only the fourth British woman, after Beryl Burton, Mandy Jones and Nicole Cooke, to win the World Champion title.
"It's just a dream that I've always had to be World Champion. I've won lots of races before, but in cycling, to be World Champion and getting to wear the rainbow jersey all season is something I've always dreamed about," Armitstead told ITV after the race.
Her focus now is on next year’s Olympic road race in Rio. As the reigning World Champion, there is likely to be intense pressure on Armitstead to turn silver into gold - and, in her own words, the course is 'brutal'.
She plans to train over the winter off-season at her home in Monaco (where Chris Froome is also based) using the hills and mountains to build up her 'climber's legs' in preparation for next summer.
But beyond Rio, she is unsure. A report in Cycling Weekly magazine recently suggested she might be considering retirement from cycling, post-Olympics. She and Deignan plan to marry next autumn and hopefully start a family. She told the magazine: "I want a family, so that’s important to me, and you have to make time for that, quite a lot of time."
This remark prompted an outcry at the thought of losing such a talented British cyclist at the height of her career. Armitstead went on to tell the Telegraph last week: “I haven't thought about retirement but I have been asked so much about it, I've lost track of my responses. I am focused on Rio but after that, honestly, no idea! We’re planning a to get married in Yorkshire next September. It would be nice to get an Olympic title before I change my name, though.”
Having achieved all but one of her professional ambitions at a relatively early age, she doesn't feel the need to continue proving herself beyond the Olympics.
“For me, if you have been World Champion it's almost the same as saying you’ve been multiple World Champion. The key thing for me is that I don't need to say I'm the Olympic silver medallist any more. I’m the World Champion. They can’t take that away from me.”
Victory at the World Championships came after arguably the most successful period in her career, with a Commonwealth gold in 2014, two UCI Women's Road World Cup titles and her third British National Road Race Championship. Should Armitstead retire in 2016 at the top of her game or carrying on winning medals for another few years? Ride Velo would certainly be very sorry to see her go - but perhaps Armitstead/Deignan offsping will be an unbeatable future combination.