Women's Tour: Riders now target British race, says defending champion
Defending champion Lizzie Deignan says the Women's Tour has developed into a race "everybody targets", with the first stage to begin on Wednesday.
It will be the fourth edition of the five-stage event, which opens in Daventry, Northamptonshire and will conclude in London on Sunday, 11 June.
All 15 Women's World Tour teams will compete, including British former world champion Deignan's Boels-Dolmans squad.
"It is about expecting the unexpected in this race," said the 28-year-old.
"You can't ever lose focus here because there is always something around the next corner. I am prepared for anything."
Riders are set to face the longest and hardest edition of the Women's Tour to date, with Wednesday's stage one of the three that are longer than 140km.
"It has developed into a race that everybody targets," added Deignan. "I am not very good at stage races normally. Having the home crowd and a very strong team helped me achieve that victory last year."
On Sunday, the capital will host the finale for the first time in the race's history, with a 62km race set to culminate in a sprint finish on Regent Street St James's.
Deignan's Dutch team-mate Anna van der Breggen, the reigning Olympic and European road race champion, is also targeting a strong race.
"We don't have many stages races and those that we do have been on the calendar for many years, so it's really cool to have this new event develop at such a high level," she added.
Women's Tour stages
- Stage one: 7 June, Daventry to Kettering
- Stage two: 8 June, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire
- Stage three: 9 June, Atherstone to Royal Leamington Spa
- Stage four: 10 June, Chesterfield and Derbyshire
- Stage five: 11 June, London