Philip Deignan has ended Ireland’s long wait for a top 10 finish at a Grand Tour by posting a ninth place overall in this year’s Tour of Spain which finished with a 110-kilometre trek from Rivas to Madrid today.
The Donegal rider, who celebrated his 26th birthday last week, equalled the same place finish registered by Stephen Roche at the Giro d’Italia back in 1993 courtesy of his stunning Stage 18 win on Thursday.
It has been a gutsy three-week’s for the Cervelo Test Team rider and after the biggest win of his career on Thursday, he still had it all to do to preserve his top 10 status as Friday was a murderous mountain stage of 174 kilometres while Saturday he faced into a difficult time-trial with several riders breathing down his neck.
However, showing excellent form and superb battling qualities he managed to limit his losses and after years of underachievement and misfortune he finally appears to be reaching his potential.
“I thought beforehand that probably the best I could have achieved would have been a top 20 finish as I hadn’t done a good general classification before,” said Deignan.
“I never would have dreamt this, especially the stage win. Before I have been able to get into breaks and get good placing, but when you are going flat out every day for GC, it makes it even harder to get into the moves. It is a brilliant result and I am over the moon.”
Deignan had a very strong amateur career with VC La Pomme in France, and won the Tour du Doubs in his first year as a professional.
However since then he is not been able to have a consistent run at racing, suffocating his natural talent. This year, despite five crashes in the Giro d’Italia, he has finally got back on track.
“My first season in 2005 was pretty good, I won a race. Since then I have had problems with knee injuries and glandular fever and things like that,” he explained. “I actually wasn’t sure if it was possible any more but now, with this win, it is a very important day for my self confidence and belief.”
The other Irish rider in the race-Dan Martin, riding his first grand Tour finished a solid 53rd overall and both riders will join Nicolas Roche (Ag2r La Mondiale) for the Elite world championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland, next Sunday.
Yesterday’s final stage was won by German André Greipel (Columbia-HTC) which means the race leader’s yellow jersey remained on the shoulders of Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).