Team Sky has announced that Philip Deignan will become the team’s first Irish rider when he joins the squad for the 2014 season.
The 29-year-old from County Donegal joins the team after two seasons with the US-based UnitedHealthcare squad. This year he won the Tour of the Gila, finished runner-up at the Tour de Beauce, and claimed top 10 finishes at the Tours of Utah and California and the USA Pro Challenge.
Deignan turned professional with AG2R Prevoyance in 2005 and won the Tour de Doubs in his maiden season before making his Grand Tour debut at the 2007 Vuelta a Espana. After joining Cervelo TestTeam in 2009, Deignan helped the squad to four stage victories at the Giro d’Italia before his first Grand Tour stage win at the Vuelta, in which he was ninth overall.
Illness hampered much of his 2010 season, but Deignan was named in that year’s Vuelta a Espana squad before making the switch to RadioShack in 2011. His sixth Grand Tour appearance came that year at the Giro d'Italia and he also aided the team’s successes at the Trofeo Inca, Tour de Suisse, Tour of Utah and inaugural USA Pro Challenge before signing a two-year deal with UnitedHealthcare.
His prowess in the mountains and selfless attitude mean Deignan has all the qualities to become one of Team Sky’s most valued climbing domestiques, although a proven track record in some of the sport’s biggest races means he is more than capable of challenging for top honours himself.
Next in action at the Tour of Britain, Deignan is the second new name to be unveiled ahead of the 2014 season, following the announcement in June that Nathan Earle would also be joining the squad.
On the prospect of becoming the first Irish Team Sky rider, Philip Deignan said: “I’m really excited to get the opportunity to race for the biggest team in the world and to be able to ride for some of the best riders in the world. It’s going to be a big challenge but I’m really looking forward to it.
“It’s a fantastic team where nothing is left to chance with the coaching and the diet – which will really suit the type of rider that I am. Team Sky will offer me the kind of environment I need to be in to help me perform to the best of my ability.
“I spent a few years in the WorldTour before moving over to America for two great seasons racing with UnitedHealthcare, who I really must thank for such great support both on and off the bike over the past two seasons. I now feel like I’m at the level where I can race in the WorldTour in Europe so when I got the opportunity to head back there with Team Sky it was hard to resist.”
Team Sky Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: “Everyone at Team Sky is very excited to have Philip join us from the start of next season.
“We’re well aware of what he is capable of on a bike. He’s a climber of real quality and he will certainly strengthen our squad even further in stage race competition.
“He brings experience to the team and we believe he belongs at this level. It’s great to finally have an Irish rider on our roster and I’m certain that under our coaches and performance staff there is a lot more to come from Philip.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.