Deignan excited about Vuelta a Espana selection

Philip Deignan’s return to the WorldTour continues to go from strength to strength as he was named in Team Sky’s nine-man squad for the Vuelta a España.

After riding the Giro d’Italia earlier this season, the Vuelta will be Deignan’s second Grand Tour of the year. The only time Deignan has ridden both races in the same season was 2009, where he took a stage win at the Vuelta and went on to finish ninth overall – his best finish to date. He is more than ready to do it again.

“I’m feeling pretty excited about it. Having Chris [Froome] coming changes things a lot, obviously, having a guy who can potentially win the race it’s going to be an exciting three weeks,” a delighted Deignan told Cyclingnews. “We had a training camp in Nice for two weeks and then I did the Tour of Poland and I was feeling pretty good there. I feel like I’m ready for the Vuelta.”

Deignan will be putting personal ambition to one side as he rides in support of teammate Chris Froome, who turns his attentions to the Vuelta after crashing out of the Tour de France. In their way will be the likes of Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana and former Vuelta winner Alberto Contador, but Deignan is confident that they can match anything thrown at them.

“At the moment all the focus is on Chris and trying to support him the best I can. That’s the only objective really,” Deignan told Cyclingnews. “It’s a really strong team. We’ve put together a lot of really strong climbers and support riders for the flat stages too. On paper we have a really strong team to beat anyone else in the race.”

Stepping up

After spending two years at ProContinental level with UnitedHealthcare, Deignan made the jump back up to the WorldTour when Team Sky signed him up for the 2014 season. It got off to a shaky start when he broke his collarbone days before he was supposed to start the Ruta del Sol. However, it picked up after that and he put in strong performances at the Giro and the Tour de Pologne.

“Breaking my collarbone earlier in the year set me back a little bit, but overall I’m happy with the way I’ve adapted back into ProTour racing again,” said Deignan. “I feel like I’ve settled in really quickly and I’ve made a lot friends on the team and we all get along really well, which makes it a lot easier to work together on the bike. We have fun off the bike as well. It’s been a pretty smooth transition really.”

Deignan could be welcoming another friendly face into the team with his compatriot Nicolas Roche rumoured to be joining the team for 2015. The two have never ridden together on the same trade team, with Deignan leaving AG2R-La Mondiale the season before Roche joined. The Donegal rider looks forward to finally rectifying that statistic.

“It would be great, it would be really exciting. We know each other quite well and we live quite close to each other. It would be great to have another Paddy on the team,” he laughed. “He’s shown over the last couple of years at Saxo that he’s a strong domestique in the mountains and a solid rider. He can take his own chances as well. I think this team would suit him quite well and it would be great to have him on board.”

Finishing strong

Deignan hopes that he will be riding with Roche a little sooner than 2015. The 30-year-old is looking to start at the World Championships for the first time since 2009, where he was the best Irish finisher. With two of the three spots likely to go to Roche and his cousin Dan Martin, the final place will be a hotly contested one.

“At the moment, the main focus is the Vuelta and to do a good performance there and then there’s the World Championships and then possibly continue on to Lombardy and Beijing. Hopefully I can finish out the season strongly,” said Deignan.

In Martin, Deignan thinks the nation has a shot at taking their first world title since Stephen Roche in 1987. “I think Dan has proved in the past that he’s got a good finish. Obviously he’s good enough to get over the climbs, so if it comes down to a sprint from a small group then he has a great chance. Especially considering he hasn’t raced that much this year, he should be coming into the Worlds pretty fresh. He could be a bit of a dark horse.”

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