By Shane Stokes
Although he placed a very promising fifth in the European championships and 9th in the under 23 worlds last year, Irish rider Philip Deignan hasn't had much of a 2006 season due to illness. After recovering from a broken collarbone which he had sustained in his first race of the season back on January 31st, the 22 year old struggled to find form and was forced to scratch from the AG2R Prévoyance team for the Giro d'Italia due to a kidney infection. He eventually discovered that he had glandular fever and has had a frustrating wait for it to pass.
"It has taken a lot longer than I thought it would," he told Cyclingnews on Friday. "It just doesn't seem to be improving the moment. I am going out and doing an hour and a half to two hours but there is no power there, no energy. It's hard to go over 30 kilometres an hour.
"I had glandular fever a while back. I kept on riding with it and was really tired, then got the kidney infection. I think it was a combination of a whole load of things. I must have over-did it a little. The last blood test I got done showed that there was a lot of toxins and acid in my blood, which is what you get after glandular fever. I think that is basically what is making me really tired at the moment.
"There is not really much I can do right now…it is just a case of trying to rest and recover. You can't really force it. If you are not able to train there is nothing you can do, really. It is quite frustrating."
Deignan is currently based at the Sean Kelly Cycling Academy in Merchtem, Belgium, and is seeing a specialist near there to try to speed his recovery. "I see him about twice a week and he is giving me some homeopathic stuff to clean out the blood. But there is no real quick cure, it is just time," he said.
Deignan's last real race was Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He started the Route du Sud due simply to the requirement for his team to field the necessary numbers, but ended up withdrawing on the opening stage. He is now running out of time to get fit again before the end of the year.
"Even if I was able to start back training properly in the next couple of weeks, the season will almost be over by the time I get into good shape again," he said. "It has been that long since I have raced. I don't want to call an end to this season yet, but time is running out. It seems to be taking a lot longer than I thought it would to come back from this.
There is one small benefit from his situation, in that Deignan has been able to follow the good showing of his AG2R team this month. "I haven't been able to watch the Tour de France for a few years, but because I am not able to train that much at the moment, I am able to see most of it," he said. "With Calzati winning the stage and Cyril [Dessel] holding yellow, it has been great.
"When the news of Mancebo broke it was hard, because the team had so much hopes on that guy for a podium place. But it was great the way the guys were able to come back from that. Calzati has had an awful lot of bad luck and it is great to see him do well, taking that victory.
" I'm obviously really happy for the team. It motivates me to see my team-mates doing that, you want to be there and be doing the Tour as well."
Deignan has a deal with the team until the end of 2008 and so he has the security of a contract. He's a strong climber and so once he has recovered from his illness, he should have plenty of chances to compete in Grand Tours in the years to come.