After completing the Tour of Oman, Philip Deignan will continue his early season Asian adventure at the Tour de Langkawi next month. The Team Sky rider hopes that the eight-day race will help him find his form, which he says is not yet where he wants it to be, ahead of the crucial European races later in the spring.
"I'm a little bit behind where I'd like to be ideally but it is still only February. We've got time to work on the condition," he told Cyclingnews. "I've done (Langkawi) a couple of times before and it's been a nice race. It's a good race to get condition, and you can come out of it with quite good form because it's eight days…. if you look after yourself well."
It will be Sky's first time at the race but Deignan has made two previous starts, with his last coming in 2009 when he finished 11th overall. Sky are yet to announce their full line-up but Deignan expects that the Colombian Sebastian Henao will lead the team's ambitions in the general classification with Chris Sutton targeting the numerous sprint days.
Deignan has already ridden the Mallorca Challenge but his European campaign won't really begin until the five-day Coppi e Bartali, where Peter Kennaugh is the defending champion, at the end of March. Following that, he will enjoy a lengthy break after a busy start to the season before returning to Italy for the Giro del Trentino in April. The Tour de Romandie is Deignan's last confirmed race on his programme, with the team still to decide whether to send him to the Giro d'Italia or the Tour of California.
"If I go to the Giro it will be to help Richie Porte or Leo Konig, so it will be more as a support rider and going in breakaways like I did last year. We didn't really have a GC guy there last year but if we go this year with Leo and Richie it will be a different sort of scenario," said Deignan, who rode an aggressive Giro that saw him come close to his second Grand Tour stage win - after taking a stage of the 2009 Vuelta a Espana - in the second week.
"I learned a lot of things last year. It was a great season, so I definitely want to build on last year and keep progressing," he added.
Team Sky have finished on the podium twice with Rigoberto Urán with their best performance second in the 2013 edition, following Bradley Wiggins' departure. Porte, who took the young riders' classification in 2010, was due to lead the team last season but was pulled from the roster after a series of early season abandons.
Deignan is confident that another top three is realistic. "For sure a podium (is possible), I think if Contador goes he'll be hard to beat but with those two guys they've proved that they can be up there overall."
Standing up for your rights
When Cyclingnews spoke to, Deignan it was ahead of the final day of the Tour of Oman following the controversial stage 5, which was ultimately cancelled due to the excessive heat. Sandstorms forced the start to be moved before extreme temperatures ended with the riders parking up under a bridge and refusing to race. While Deignan says that he would have been happy to ride, he believes the unity of the riders was much more important.
"We race in similar conditions in July and August down descents and we don't cancel the stage then. Either way, I wouldn't have minded racing but I think it was better off not taking the risk. The most important outcome was that we all stuck together, which was a first," said Deignan. "I'm not convinced that it would have happened if we had raced but, then again, do you want to take the chance? Conditions were definitely extreme in the heat; it was well over 40 degrees on the climb, so they were excessive.
"Usually in that situation the riders stop and then we end up going again…. I think it is definitely a step closer (to a riders' union) and for sure they need to put in place rules for situations like that when there are extreme temperatures."