Team Sky’s newest recruit, Irishman Philip Deignan, has admitted that moving to the team is a “dream come true” but he said he’s ready for the challenge ahead and won’t be intimidated by riding with the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Rochie Porte.
The Donegal native, who celebrates his 30th birthday on Saturday, will link up with the British team after the current season ends and he will spend the next two seasons with the star-studded squad. He is the team’s first Irish signing.
“I’m absolutely delighted. It’s a dream come true,” he beamed today when the move was made official. As regards riding with the likes of the last two Tour de France winners, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, Deignan said he won’t be intimidated if and when he’s called on to support them next season.
“I’m used to riding in big teams in the past, it’s not necessarily going to be a new experience for me. I rode for Radioshack, I rode for Cervelo – some world class teams so I’m not like a young teenager going into a team racing,” he explained.
“I feel like I’m mature and I’m not going to be overawed by the situation. It’s a move that I feel I’m ready for and I’m capable of making. Dave (Brailsford) can probably see that I’m talented and that I’ve had problems over the years and there’s a lot of room for improvement,” he added.
Though conversations have been brief with Brailsford, the 2009 Vuelta a Espana stage winner admitted he’s aware of what his role in the team will most likely entail – including the possibility of starting the Giro d’Italia ‘at home’ when it kicks of in Ireland in 2014.
“My main role will be as a support rider in the mountains,” he said “That’s mainly where my strengths lie so my main role will be to help some of the bigger GC guys, the likes of (Richie) Porte or (Chris) Froome or whoever the leader may be.
“Then obviously the Tour of Italy is starting in Ireland next year so that’s going to be a big goal; I must be 100% ready there to support the team. It’s going to be a bit of a change for me because this year, with UnitedHealthCare, I was more of a team leader, and now I’ll be going into more of a support role but I’ve done that in the past for guys like Carlos Sastre (at Cervelo Test Team).”
It really is a testament to Deignan’s resilience that he’s in this position at all because he has had a difficult number of years, changing teams and changing bases while also having a number of niggling injuries and ailments. He said there have been plenty low-points, but he always believed he’d get to this level.
“There have been a lot of challenges, ups and downs but I’ve come through them pretty well,” he said. “I’ve had my fair share of setbacks over the years but I was always confident I’d get through it. I had good people there around me, my coach, my family and friends were great and you need them in those tough situations for support because the sport is so hard, but mentally, I was always pretty confident I’d get through it.”
For now, he is focusing on his two remaining big goals for 2013; the Tour of Britain, which starts on Sunday week in Peebles, and the World Championships in Florence at the end of the month.
To that end, he’s currently in the US, training at altitude and just wants to honour his remaining commitments to UnitedHealthCare and do Ireland proud in Florence, instead of getting too ahead of himself.
“I had the Tour of Utah and Colorado last month and I stayed here training at altitude to fine-tune things and stay focused, instead of going home.
“I’ll go straight to the Tour of Britain next week and then the Worlds. It’s going to be great going to the World Championships with guys who can podium. Before, we’ve always gone but would be well off the podium but this time we’re going with Dan and Nico in great form, so we’ll have guys right up there in the end and it’ll be exciting to be a part of that, to try and help get Ireland a result.”