She may lack the name recognition of some of her better-known teammates, but Lizzie Armitstead is a shining light of the Great Britain cycling team – and she will be seeking to cement her legacy this summer. The 27-year-old rider has already claimed the World, Commonwealth and National road race title during her career, and now has her eyes firmly fixed on a first gold medal in Rio de Janeiro.
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Elizabeth Mary 'Lizzie' Armitstead fell into her profession by chance, really, when British Cycling's Olympic Talent Team visited Prince Henry's Grammar School, a state comprehensive school where she was educated. Armistead only took up cycling in 2004 - but subsequently made a rapid rise through the ranks, suggesting she was a natural on the bike.
She won a silver medal in the scratch race at the Junior World Track Championships in 2005, and was under-23 European Scratch Race Champion in 2007 and 2008. Then in 2009, Armitstead was a member of the gold medal-winning team pursuit squad at the Track Cycling World Championships, in addition to claiming a silver medal in the scratch race and a bronze in the points race.
By now, Armitstead was firmly established as a star of British cycling, although her profile and her earnings would continue to be dramatically overshadowed by the likes of Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton, all of whom had achieved Olympic gold medals on the track at the Beijing Games.
It was at this point that Armitstead, like Sir Bradley, made the career-shaping decision to swap the track for the road, as she joined the Lotto-Belisol cycling team. And it was not long before the Yorkshire-born star was underlining her potential on the tarmac, winning the under-23 category of the British National Road Race Championships, as well as a silver medal in the senior category.
Armitstead briefly rode for the Garmin–Cervélo team, but following the discontinuation of its women's squad, she switched the AA Drink-Leontien.nl team in 2012, by which point her attention was fully focused on the Olympic Games in London. For Armitstead, like many British athletes, the Games in the UK were a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete in front of her home fans at the world's biggest sporting event.
Armitstead did not disappoint, winning Great Britain's first medal of the Games – a silver – in the Women's individual road race and triggering an incredible summer of success for Team GB. Sir Dave Brailsford, who was then serving as British Cycling's performance director, hailed Armitstead's performance, saying: "Team GB's got its first medal on the board, which gets the media off our backs, and let's concentrate and get on a roll. That's what we need to do."
Predictably, perhaps, 2013 proved to be something of a letdown, as despite wining the British National Road Race championships, Armitstead's season was affected by a recurring stomach illness, which was ultimately diagnosed as a symptom of a hiatus hernia.
But she bounced back in style 12 months later, producing a career-best year, which started with winning the prestigious Omloop van het Hageland race. She then won the women's road race at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, overhauling Emma Pooley near the finish to win her first major gold medal. And Armitstead was not finished there, either, because in August 2014, she won the UCI Women's Road World Cup with a race to spare.
The success story continued last year, too, when Armitstead won the World Championships Road Race in Richmond, Virginia, beating van der Breggen in a sprint to the finish line. In the process, she became only the fourth British woman to win the world road race title, following in the footsteps of Beryl Burton, Mandy Jones and Nicole Cooke.
But in spite of her incredible medal collection and the respect she commands among the cycling community, Armitstead has still to establish herself as a crossover star. She knows, as does every other British athlete at Rio 2016, that this summer offers her the chance to become a national hero and to ensure she gains the recognition her talent deserves.
"The Rio experience for me is going to be completely different to London," she said previously. "I went into London as a young, inexperienced rider who was just hoping to come [in the] top 10, but I'm going to Rio for gold."
A gold in Brazil would finally allow Armitstead to step out of the shadow of some of British cycling's most-loved riders. It is really where she belongs.