Irishman will support Chris Froome at the Vuelta a España
Philip Deignan has been a professional since 2005 and he might have found his best balance and position within cycling this year, his first with Team Sky.
“I have a good job and a good life,” the Irishman told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Poland, barely concerned by the wounds from his crash at 50kph on a descent on Thursday.
“At the moment I feel reasonably good but I’m still missing some rhythm since I took some time off after the Tour of Switzerland,” he said. “I am building up again to be in top shape for the next goals, and I feel fresh and ready for the Vuelta a España.”
After breaking his collarbone at the beginning of the season, Deignan went on to have a pretty heavy racing schedule in late spring and early summer, competing in the Giro del Trentino, the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of Switzerland, all mountainous races where he could try his own luck after Sky’s planned leader Richie Porte opted to skip them.
At the Giro, Deignan finished 3rd atop Rifugio Panarotta behind the Colombians Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing) and Fabio Duarte (Team Colombia), and also performed very strongly at Montecampione. He also narrowly missed victory in Switzerland, when he edged out by Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) on stage 2.
The soon to be 31-year-old’s next objective, the Vuelta a España, will be a new step, though, as he will support Christopher Froome in his quest for victory.
“This is the first time I will ride together with Chris and it's going to be very exciting,” Deignan said, although he was originally planning to ride his own race once again – until Froome's crash and withdrawal from the Tour de France meant that Team Sky would send its leader to Spain.
“It will probably bring more pressure and stress every day,” Deignan said. “In the Giro we could switch 'on' and 'off' for the stages we wanted to go for and you could maybe relax sometimes. With Chris coming to the Vuelta, we have to be 'on' every day. But I think it's part of the job.”
“I hope I will be able to help him in the mountains,” he added. “On the Giro I could climb pretty well so I hope I can stay in more select groups. I maybe won't be the last man because we will bring a very strong team, but we will see how the legs are.”
In the past two years, Deignan raced with the status of leader for the US Pro Continental squad UnitedHealthcare but he is glad to support a grand tour contender again. He explained that it suits him to take on a domestique role and give up his personal ambitions of hunting stages. “Both roles are interesting but you get probably more satisfaction by helping big riders to win overall at a three-week race,” he reckoned.
With Cervélo in 2009, he played that teammate’s role for Carlos Sastre at the Giro d'Italia, even if he recalls that the Spaniard followed a different strategy to the one Froome will adopt. “Carlos was a very relaxed rider, he just wanted to ride at the back and then one kilometre before the climb he wanted to move up. So it was pretty easy with him actually.”
Deignan started his career in 2005 with French team AG2R with the status of a stage race leader in development. In his amateur years he had topped the overall rankings of the Tour des Pays de Savoie (2003), the Ronde de l'Isard (2004) and he twice finished third on stages of the Baby Giro.
His first seasons as a professional were sprinkled with several accidents and illnesses, however, while his management blamed his lack of consistency and an alleged “weak mentality.” He seemed to find the right path by signing for Cervélo in 2009, as demonstrated by his Vuelta stage victory in Avila and his 9th place overall in Madrid.
Moving to Team Sky this year provided Deignan with some fresh hopes and a better balance in both his professional and personal life.
“I have been very, very happy with the team and everything matched the high expectations I had,” he said.
Meanwhile Deignan has found a new home in Europe, after previously living in Aubagne, near Marseille, then Girona, Dublin and sometimes Belgium or Colorado. “In just four months, I have already found great people in Monaco both for training and off the bike,” he confided.
His humble character prevents him from expressing his objectives for the future, even if Deignan admits to harbouring ambitions of eventually making his debut in the biggest race of all. “The Tour de France is a dream, like for every rider,” he said.
Under contract with Team Sky for next year, Deignan says he has not spoken to his management about his 2015 schedule just yet. “I just want to focus on the coming goals and finishing the season strongly.” After the Vuelta he might race the world Championships in Ponferrada, alongside his countrymen Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo).
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