Steadfast – My Story by Lizzie Armistead. Published by Blink Publishing. £20.00

Last weekend I received and read this book at the same time that Lizzie was storming to victory in the Women’s race on the Tour de Yorkshire. And what an absolutely fascinating and absorbing read it is; the sort of book that once started is nigh on impossible to put back down.

If 1992 was the Queen’s Annus horribilis, then 2016 was Lizzie’s. Just days before the Rio Olympics she was in Switzerland sitting before three arbitrators at the Court of Arbitration for Sport defending herself following the suspension two weeks previously on 11 July when she had been suspended by the UK Anti-Doping authority for receiving three strikes within the Whereabouts system (a system that monitor’s an athlete’s availability for random anti-drugs testing) and this court would decide if the three “strikes” she had stood or not. This decision was one that could totally affect her future career in cycling.

As it turned out, one of those strikes was proved to be unsupported; one of the arbitrators said, “This should never have come to court; you are wasting everyone’s time” and the case was thrown out. This enabled Lizzie to fly to Rio where her parents were already waiting to compete in the Women’s Road Race but even as she prepared to do so, the story broke in the UK press and rather than this helping, the story was misreported over and over again as “three missed tests” rather than the actual facts of one missed test, one filing failure and one alleged missed test which was the one that was overruled earlier that week in Lausanne.

This book covers these events in detail but also is very frank and shows that Lizzie is a passionate ambassador of clean sport, wants to inspire young athletes by her dedication and example and the amount of hard work she has put into her training and racing over the years which led to her becoming an Olympic Silver medallist in 2012, Commonwealth Gold medallist in 2014 and Women’s World Champion in 2015.

The book follows her life from a youngster at school at The Whartons in Otley and then at Prince Henry’s where at the age of fifteen a “British Cycling Talent Team” came and carried out a series of tests on pupils which eventually after more tests at Bradford and Horsforth led to Lizzie being chosen to join the British Cycling squad. The book goes on to follow her over the next decade progressing up the ranks, winning European and World Cup medals travelling the world participating in the sport that she loves.

It deals with the support she has had from her Mum and Dad, Carol and John, her sister Kate and brother Nick and her grandparents Ray and Marjorie plus the various trainers she has had over the years and in particular Phil West, her first coach. It covers the highs and lows of the sport, fabulous victories but also crashes she has had to put up with over the years. Finally, it covers probably the happiest moment of her life so far meeting the Irish cyclist Phil Deignan, becoming engaged and finally marrying him in September 2016 at the URC Church in Otley where her parents had married some thirty-six years before.

Having known the Armistead family for many years (my two sons being at both Junior and Senior school with Lizzie and Nick) I found this a fascinating read and for anyone from Otley and Wharfedale this is a book about our local heroine which I am sure others will find equally as interesting.