By Shane Stokes
Irish rider Philip Deignan has a strong programme of racing laid out and hopes for a good second half to the season after several months lost to injury. The third year Ag2r Prévoyance professional has taken several good results in the past, including second place on a mountain stage of the 2006 Tour de l'Avenir, but this year he was sidelined through first a knee problem and then a calf muscle strain.
"It's been pretty frustrating," he told Cyclingnews.com. "I had a knee injury at the start of the year and only got three weeks good training in before I started back racing. I think I probably did a little bit too much too soon, I wasn't ready for it. I did Circuit de la Sarthe and Four Days of Dunkirk and some other races and then Catalunya. I tore a calf muscle there, just from overdoing it. There is no other reason for it. I crashed in the race but I already had the pain before I crashed, so it was nothing to do with that.
"It basically meant I had to take more time off the bike. I have got a few weeks training in at this stage so hopefully I will be okay until the end of the season."
Deignan turned professional after a strong 2004 season when he won two stages plus the overall in the prestigious Ronde d'Isard World Cup stage race, finished eighth in the under 23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège [despite being sent the wrong way], took third on two climbing stages (stage 5 and >stage 9 of the Baby Giro and top twenty GC places against the pros in the Tour of Britain and Tour de Langkawi.
In 2005 he recovered from a crash in the Tour of the Mediterranean to take his first pro win in the Tour du Doubs. He also placed third on a stage and eighth overall in Paris-Corrèze and got several other good placings, including fifth in the European championships and ninth in the under 23 worlds.
Last season was a frustrating one, with a broken collarbone and glandular fever [mononucleosis] causing him to miss a substantial chunk of racing. However he came good towards the end of the Tour de l'Avenir, placing second to Rémy Di Gregorio (Française des Jeux) on the mountainous eighth stage to Saint-Genis-Pouilly.
The Donegal rider finished things off with a solid 14th in the following day's mountain time trial and tenth on the tough final stage, placing 22nd overall. Without all the disruptions to his season and that concomitant time loss on days one and two, he surely would have been higher in the general classification.
He's got ability, but hasn't had a good run at things since the 2005 season. The 23 year-old is hoping that all changes now. "I will get back to racing in the Polynormande [August 5th – ed.]," he said. "My form is coming along but there is a bit of work to do. I was only doing an hour and a half of training a couple of weeks ago but now I am doing pretty good four or five-hour rides.
"When you haven't raced in a while you lose speed so I will be missing that for the first few races. But my form is at a decent level at the moment and I still have another two weeks to get ready. It will be okay."
All going to plan, he will have plenty of opportunity to chase a good result. He'll also make his Grand Tour debut. "Pretty much every race I will do between now and the end of the year are all pretty big. The Tour of Germany, the Tour of Ireland, the Tour of Spain and then right up to the Tour of Lombardy. When the riders are tired in the Vuelta and the Classic races at the end of the year, I will hopefully be fresh and riding well. I will target all of them, right through Lombardy. I think the Worlds should also be a possibility.
"The Tour of Ireland is going to be great to do. It is a brilliant opportunity. I haven't raced in Ireland for ages. I will have the opportunity to race against T-Mobile there as well as the other ProTour teams that are riding. It is a great opportunity and I am really looking forward to it."