Philip Deignan Interview: Irishman ready to rumble at the USA Pro Challenge
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Philip Deignan Interview: Irishman ready to rumble at the USA Pro Challenge

by Shane Stokes at 6:21 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
“I feel really good at the moment…I am confident that I am in good shape”

Philip DeignanWinner of the Tour of the Gila and ninth overall in the subsequent Tour of California, Philip Deignan has said that he believes he could be in even better condition for this week’s USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.

The UnitedHealthcare competitor is one of his team’s protected riders for the event, and is motivated to perform strongly in what would be a gesture of appreciation for his two seasons there.

“It is hard to tell exactly how I will go in the race, but I feel really good at the moment,” Deignan told VeloNation prior to Monday’s opening stage of the American event. “All the tests I have done in training suggest that I am stronger than I was before Gila and California. But we will find out this week, I suppose. You are never really sure [until the race gets going] but I am confident that I am in good shape.”

Deignan warmed up for the race by competing in the recent Tour of Utah. He ended up riding support for Lucas Euser there, helping his team-mate place third overall, but despite that he was himself able to take sixth.

“The race was pretty good,” he said, assessing how things worked out. “It was another solid performance from me. I was happy with the way the preparation went for the race. I got out to altitude ten days before it.

“I had a good break after the first part of the season, after the national championships, and built up strongly. So I feel that I should be able to lift it up a level for this week in Colorado.”

Today’s opening leg in and around Aspen saw several attacks, including a daring late move by George Bennett (RadioShack Leopard) and Carter Jones (Bissell Pro Cycling), but came together just before the sprint.

Tour de France green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) had little difficulty in nabbing the win, starting his campaign strongly.

Deignan’s team-mate Kiel Reijnen fared well, notching up third place behind Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team). Lucas Euser was eighth. As for the Irishman, he finished in the main bunch; everything going to plan thus far.

Although the Pro Continental squad is up against seven WorldTour teams, including some of the biggest names in the sport, Deignan said that UnitedHealthcare was taking an ambitious approach in the event.

“We want to win a stage here, as a team,” he said, making it clear that they had no intention of being fodder for the bigger squads. “Alessandro Bazzana and Kiel Reijnen are two guys who can win stages. As for myself and Lucas [Euser], we are going to aim for a high GC and also we are going to go for a stage win as well.

“For me, personally, the standard here is obviously a little bit higher than Utah. We have got more strong teams, but I will be looking for another result similar to Utah. For sure definitely a top ten, and maybe better, if possible.”

The 2.HC race will play out over seven days in all. Today’s opening leg to Aspen was relatively controlled, but things will be shaken up more in the days ahead. All bar the final day are lumpy to mountainous; all could splinter the peloton and shake up the GC. However Deignan sees two stages as being particularly important.

“I think stage number four, and the time trial the next day...those will be the big GC days,” he said, referring to the summit finish of Beaver Creek and the uphill TT to Vail. “Stage one could be a little bit unpredictable with no team to control the race. Also, it is going to be a hard circuit and an aggressive day, so there could be a big group that goes away. But I think in general it should be stages four and five that are the most crucial.”

Philip deignanDeignan’s best career results thus far came in 2009 when he won a stage and placed ninth overall in the Vuelta a España. The-then Cervélo test team rider underlined his climbing ability in clocking those performances, but had a couple of leaner years since due to illness and injury.

He’s had some good performances in that time, but until this year he didn’t show the same prolonged run of form. 2013 has been much better, though, and his talent is once again clear.

Unsurprisingly, that has resulted in enquiries from a number of big teams. Although he didn’t get into specifics, Deignan’s agent Andrew McQuaid confirmed to VeloNation recently that at least one WorldTour team was after his signature.

The rider had been rumoured to be on Sky’s radar, but McQuaid said he couldn’t confirm anything.

The team also said that it wasn’t in a position to comment on a rider who was under contract, but did state that an Irish signing would be of interest to the team’s sponsors.

“I can confirm Ireland is of strategic importance to Team Sky, along with the UK, Italian, North American and German markets,” said Fran Millar, the Head of Business Operations, said. “Our shareholders have interests in each of those territories.”

It’s unclear since then if a final agreement has been made there or elsewhere. Deignan isn’t giving anything away, other than hinting that he will indeed be in a different jersey in 2014.

“At the moment I am really just focussing on finishing out a good season with UnitedHealthcare,” he told VeloNation. “I am just focussing on racing my bike. I am letting my agent take care of all that stuff.

“I am obviously very happy with the UnitedHealthcare team. I have had a good two years here, so I just want to finish out the season on a positive note for them.”

A big performance this week would certainly align with that goal.

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