By Shane Stokes
Irish rider Philip Deignan had his best result of the season on Thursday in finishing second on the mountainous eighth stage of the Tour de l'Avenir. The AG2R Prévoyance rider was outsprinted by fellow pro Rémy Di Gregorio (Française des Jeux) for the win, but will be greatly encouraged by what is an upswing in form after a season blighted by injury and illness.
Deignan crashed in his first race of the season, breaking his collarbone. He recovered and was down to do the Giro d'Italia, but then had to withdraw beforehand due to a kidney infection. It was later discovered that he had glandular fever and he spent much of the summer trying to shake off the last effects of the disease.
Deignan recently returned to racing. He lost time early on in the Tour de l'Avenir but is clearly coming into good condition, picking up points on each of the day's climbs, winning the final intermediate sprint and placing second at the line.
Meanwhile compatriot Nicolas Roche heads into the final two days in sixth place overall. He won stage four and will hope to improve his overall classification place before the race ends on Saturday. Moises Duenas Nevado of the Agritubel team is currently in yellow.
The Tour de L'Avenir continues on Friday with a 24.5 kilometre time trial from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc to Finhaut ITT. It concludes on Saturday with a 145.5 kilometre road race Saint-Nicolas-La-Chapelle to Marcinelle-en-Montagne.