Sat, Sep 19, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Deignan ends Ireland’s Grand Tour win drought

REUTERS , AVILA, SPAIN

Cervelo rider Philip Deignan of Ireland competes during the 18th stage of the Tour of Spain between Talavera de la Reina and Avila on Thursday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Philip Deignan ended Ireland’s 17-year wait for a Grand Tour stage win when he sprinted to victory in the Tour of Spain on Thursday.

The Cervelo professional easily outdueled fellow breakaway rider Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic on the rain-soaked streets of Avila at the end of a very hilly 165km 18th stage.

Dane Jakob Fuglsang was third.

Alejandro Valverde of Spain retains the overall lead with just three days’ racing remaining.

Kreuziger and Deignan, who were part of a 16-rider break, went clear on a fast downhill section 13km from the finish before the Irishman moved away to claim the second win of his five-year career.

“I was really nervous, I really didn’t think I could win it [the 18th stage],” Deignan told reporters. “I’ve only been in that situation a couple of times in my career.”

“I thought Kreuziger would attack on a cobbled section just coming into the town, or sprint past me at the end, but he can’t have had the legs,” he added.

After several seasons in which Deignan has been troubled by knee injuries and glandular fever, the 26-year-old said taking this victory confirmed his career was back on track.

“I wasn’t sure if it was possible for me to do so well, but this win is very important for my self-­confidence,” he said.

The first Irishman to win a Grand Tour stage since Stephen Roche in 1992, Deignan said it was a “big day for Irish cycling and I feel proud.”

“We’re having a great year and a win like this just caps it all off,” he said.

Valverde leads Dutchman Robert Gesink by 32 seconds in the overall standings with another Spaniard, Samuel Sanchez, in third place at one minute, 10 seconds.

“I think I’m a position where I can win,” Caisse D’Epargne rider Valverde told reporters.

“This was a tough day, and my team controlled it well. But tomorrow [Friday] is much more mountainous and we’ll have to dig a lot deeper to defend my lead. This isn’t over yet.”

The Tour of Spain finishes in Madrid tomorrow.

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