Letterkenny cyclist Philip Deignan enjoyed a fine start to life with Team Sky at the Tour Down Under in Australia over the last week.
The 30-year-old finished in 45th place in the general classification after the six-stage race based in Adelaide, some 10 minutes and 45 seconds behind the overall winner - Australia’s Simon Gerrans from Orica Greenedge.
Deignan finished in the main bunch on stages one and two, then rode for team leader Richie Porte on the third stage. Deignan drove the pace inside the final 10km, ramping up the speed on Corkscrew Hill and paving the way for a surge by Porte.
Deignan had a busy stage two as he broke and set up an attack for his Team Sky leaders Porte and Geraint Thomas.
On Saturday’s fifth stage, Deignan did plenty of the spade work at Old Willunga Hill for Porte to take the stage win for Team Sky.
It was their first notable triumph since getting Deignan, who first turned pro in 2005, on board last September.
Gerrans won the race by a single second from compatriot Cadel Evans of the BMC Racing Team, while Italy’s Diego Ulissi of Lampre-Merida was third some five seconds off the winner.
Sky’s Porte was fourth in the end, 10 seconds behind Gerrans.
Moving to Sky means that Deignan will once again be part of a UCI WorldTour team, and is believed to be in the running for its Giro d’Italia squad. That begins in Belfast on May 9 and will spend three days in Ireland.
Compatriots Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff Saxo) and Dan Martin (Garmin Sharp) have already confirmed that they will take part, and are expected to lead those teams.
Deignan’s career high remains winning a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2009.
However, he endured a couple of tough years with injury and illness before finding his form last year for UnitedHealthcare.
These included overall victory in the Tour of the Gila, second overall in the Tour de Beauce plus top 10 finishes in the Tour of Utah, Tour of California and USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
“It’s been a good week just to learn how the team operates, it’s certainly different to any other team I’ve been on, the way the group works together,” Deignan said.
“I’ve certainly learned a lot this week and I’m looking forward to the next races coming up. I’ll ride maybe in Mallorca or Ruta del Sol depending on jet lag and how I recover after this.”