Philip Deignan Interview - Part 1


03/10/2010| 0 comments
by Thomas A. Valentinsen
Philip Deignan interview. Photo by Tim de Waele.
Philip Deignan interview. Photo by Tim de Waele.

Philip Deignan Interview - Part 1's Thomas A. Valentinsen talks with Cervelo TestTeam's Philip Deignan in Algarve, Portugal about riding for Cervelo TestTeam, his preparations and goals for the 2010 season, about almost quitting cycling, and about escaping to Europe without telling your parents.

Irish all-rounder Philip Deignan enjoyed a breakout season in his first year with Cervelo TestTeam. After a promising amateur career followed by years of injuries and other hardships, Deignan finally generated some well-deserved results in his fifth season as a pro cyclist. 26-year-old Deignan rode in support of Cervelo TestTeam captain and Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre in the 2009 Giro d'Italia before taking full advantage of his opportunity to shine as a GC rider in the 2009 Vuelta a Espana. With a string of solid performances in key stages, he won a two-man battle into Avila in the final week of the Vuelta to claim Ireland's first grand tour stage victory since 1992 and finish 9th in the overall rankings.'s Thomas A. Valentinsen talks with Cervelo TestTeam's Philip Deignan in Algarve, Portugal about riding for Cervelo TestTeam, his preparations and goals for the 2010 season, about almost quitting cycling, and about escaping to Europe without telling your parents.

How has the Cervelo TestTeam training camp here in Portugal been for you?

So far it's been perfect. I've gotten some good rides in already and we've got two weeks here altogether so it's like the only time of the year when we can ride as one big group. Most teams split into different groups. A classics group and a group for the climbers, but here we're all riding together. So it's nice that we all get to talk with each other for some of the guys you don't see for the rest of the year. For instance the classics riders. So it's definitely been good so far.

Is this important for the team spirit?

The biggest thing here is the team bonding. The training is important as well, but I think the thing that was special about this team last year was that we all got on so good and that we're all friends so this made us ride better as a group. Normally it takes a couple of years for a big group to gel together but for this team it just happened straight away.

Why do you think that is?

I think it's the group of riders that the team chose. It's a good group of guys with good personalities. We all got on really well so it was just a good choice that was made by the Cervelo TestTeam team management.

What work have you been doing on and off the bike lately?

Well I had five weeks completely off the bike after the 2009 Tour of Lombardy because I was pretty tired after a long season that included the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. Then I started doing a bit of work in the gym and a little bit on the bike, but it hasn't been too hectic so far. It's just been base miles and endurance work. I spent three days in Basel with the rest of the team in December. We had some good times there with some good nights out and also underwent some physical tests, medical check-ups and got fitted for our 2010 Cervelo bikes and Castelli clothing.

Is this because your goals are located late in the season?

Yeah. My season doesn't start until the 2010 Vuelta a Murcia in March so I have a bit of time to get ready. So I suppose it's been a steadier build-up this year for races later in the season.

Once of the changes that your move to Cervelo TestTeam brought with it is the fact that you've now got a personal coach. Has your new coach made any changes to the way you prepare for the season compared to before you teamed up with him?

Yes he has. I rest a lot more between hard rides and I focus a lot more on the quality of the training than on the quantity. Also last year was the first year that I was training properly with a power meter as well. Before it was more based on heart rate and feel and I would go out according to a set plan and I would stick to that. A couple of split days where I go out in the morning and in the afternoon and then one or two long rides, threshold rides - various aspects that I never really did before.

Are there any specific personal limiters that you've decided to target in order to become an even better cyclist and further improve the chances of achieving your cycling goals?

Yes. Time trialing is probably my weakness. It was a limiter last season so I will definitely work on that. I will also focus more on core body work in the gym and try to be steadier on the bike. I will also try to improve my climbing as well and be able to last in the long distance races of around 250 k, which is something I feel that I'm getting better and better at every year.

One of your big ambitions for the 2010 season is to perform well in the one week races?

Yes. Races like the 2010 Dauphine Libere and the 2010 Tour of California are on my radar. The Tour of California takes place in May this year and this should work better for me because I can usually go better later on in the season. Plus the weather will be a bit better. Last year the weather was really bad there.

It's no secret that you've suffered your share of accidents and injuries in the past and that you were about to give up cycling before moving to Cervelo TestTeam from AG2R. How has this move affected your life?

Oh it has just changed my whole outlook on cycling. Before the move I was pretty close to just throwing it all in because I had had so many bad years and so much suffering on the bike. If you can't compete at the front of the race then there's no point in being there and for a couple of years I really struggled, but then people said to me you really need to just give it another shot because there's always been a reason why you haven't been able to be up there at the front. This past year has showed me that I can compete and that has just changed me completely. I have a lot more self belief now than I had before. You just have to be patient with these things and just wait till these things pass. I almost ran out of patience at one stage, but luckily I just kept the head down so I'm here now today.

What do you consider to be the main differences between your previous team AG2R and Cervelo TestTeam?

AG2R is a French team with a lot of French traditions and you speak French all the time. AG2R wasn't a bad team. I think a lot of French teams have got a reputation for being backwards and not training properly. But I don't think that's the case. The reason why I wasn't performing wasn't because I was with AG2R it was because of different things as well. I got on great with the riders and all the staff there, but I felt like I needed a change. I was there for four years and when I signed with the team they had a lot of belief in me as well because I signed as neo-pro and then resigned a three year contract at the end of my first year. So they had a lot of faith in me. When I look back at my time there I had a lot of bad moments but I enjoyed working with the people there.

Did you learn a lot while being with Team AG2R?

Yeah. Every year you ride you learn something new. I think even the guy who has been pro for 10 years is going to learn something new each year anyway. You learn a lot about the races, how to recover, how to train and how to eat.

Is it your impression that French teams are more traditional than teams from other countries?

I think in the past few years they've definitely changed a lot. They are working a lot more with the scientific side and parameters now. I think it is a little bit of a stereotype that they are a little bit far behind when it comes to training techniques and all, which I do not necessarily think is true. I think they've improved a lot in the past few years. I think what is still a bit wrong is the attitude of "Everybody else is doping except the French." They might have had that excuse ten years ago, but I think now we're all in a level playing field.

So what you are saying is that French riders in general tend to believe that they are better and cleaner than riders from other countries?

Yeah, they feel that maybe some countries aren't as strict as they are and that they themselves are all riding clean and they have the impression that riders from other countries are not. They have that little bit of a negative side.

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Click here to go to part 2 of our interview with Philip Deignan (Cervelo TestTeam).

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