By Shane Stokes, Irishcycling.com
Young Irish hope Philip Deignan's early season ambition to test his climbing legs in Paris-Nice looks to be dashed due to the lingering effects of a crash he suffered in last week's Tour of the Mediterranean. The Ag2R-Prevoyance rider still has heavy bruising around the knee joint and has been forced to pull out of Saturday's Tour du Haut Var, a race which was to be valuable preparation for next month's ProTour event.
The damage to his leg was done when the first year pro hit the deck twenty kilometres from the start of Mont Faron on day three of the Med tour. He remounted and finished 47th on the stage, but did not start the following day's team time trial due to the injury.
"The crash was pretty bad," he told Cyclingnews today. "I was working my way up the bunch before the climb when a Phonak rider moved out suddenly and hit my front wheel. We were doing 60 or 70 kilometres an hour at the time, so I fell pretty hard. I just missed hitting a telegraph pole when I went down, so I guess things could have been a lot worse."
Deignan is a promising climber who, as a twenty year old amateur, finished 18th in last year's Tour of Britain and also won the Ronde de l'Isard under 23 World Cup event. He had been planning on showing his climbing ability on the third stage. "I was hoping to do a good ride on Mont Faron. I got straight back on the bike after my crash and joined the bunch just before the start of the climb, finishing 46th, but think without the fall a top 15 or 20 place would have been possible.
"My knee has been pretty bruised ever since then. I've done nothing on the bike since but will try to start back this weekend. Unfortunately I'll miss the Tour du Haut Var and, with the interruption, am almost certain to miss out on riding Paris-Nice. Taking part in that was a target for my first pro season."
Deignan had showed good condition during Ag2R-Prevoyance's pre-season training camp, his strong mountain form ensuring that he was transferred from the team's Tour of Quatar squad to the lineup for the Tour of the Med. He is likely to return to competition in the GP Chiasso and the GP di Lugano later this month but even if that goes well, the interruption to his schedule makes a Paris-Nice ride almost impossible.
As Ag2R is a continental professional team rather than a ProTour squad, there is added uncertainty about his program. "I don't know what races I will be doing as the team probably won't get into many of the ProTour events," he said. "I think we are due to do Fleche Wallone and Liège-Bastonge-Liège - that will be good. I did the espoir version of those races and they suited me well, so I'd love to ride the pro events."
In Deignan's absence, Ag2R's Irish fans will still have someone to cheer. "Mark (Scanlon) will be doing Haut Var and Paris-Nice," said Deignan. "He is going pretty well at the moment. He is also a bit leaner than the past couple of years so that should work well for him."