Deignan runs out of gas as push for Swiss victory falls agonisingly short
Ireland's Philip Deignan went agonisingly close to both a stage win and the yellow jersey at the nine-day Tour de Suisse.
Having finished 25th in the opening time trial on Saturday, Donegal man Deignan began yesterday 41 seconds down on race leader Tony Martin of Omega Pharma Quickstep, and was therefore the highest-placed rider in the six-man breakaway group that went clear just 15km into the day's 182km stage.
Also included in the move were Cameron Meyer of Orica GreenEDGE, Lawrence Warbasse (BMC), Reto Holleinstein (IAM), Frederick Veuchelen (Wanty Groupe) and Europcar's Bjorn Thurau.
Deignan became virtual race leader on the road when the group opened a four-minute lead on the peloton as they traversed the hors-category climbs of Gotthardpass and Furkaspass and the second-category Grimselpass.
Some strong riding by the Letterkenny man on the final second-category ascent of Brunigpass with around 40km remaining saw just himself and Warbasse remain out front by the top of the climb.
With 10km to go, however, Meyer managed to regain contact with the lead duo on the descent and at the finish it was the Aussie track star that snatched victory in a three-man sprint to the line, ahead of Deignan and Warbasse.
"It's always difficult to finish second, though, when you come so close to the win," said a disappointed Deignan afterwards. "I was on the limit with Warbasse on the last climb. He was pretty strong and I was trying to hang on to him really.
"It was such a long day. Most of it was in pretty crap weather and we had almost 4,000m of climbing today. It was a wearing-down process all day and it was just about keeping the legs going.
"It was strange. It was just one of those days where I didn't really feel great on the bike, but I was just able to keep going, but I had nothing left at the end. I don't have a good sprint at the best of times, but today I just didn't have anything left."
With world time-trial champion and race leader Martin keen to defend his yellow jersey, the peloton upped the pace in the last 30km and closed the gap down to just 14 seconds on the line, with Deignan losing out on yellow by 27 seconds. "I never really believed the jersey would have been possible to be honest. The gap wasn't that big. I think we only had a minute and a half going over the top of the last climb and I wasn't really sure what was happening behind, but I knew the likelihood of us finishing with more than 40 seconds was pretty small," said Deignan.
Back in action after a strong ride at the Giro d'Italia, where he took third on stage 18, Deignan moves up to seventh overall in Switzerland now, and is the best placed overall of his Sky team.
But with former Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, also on his Sky squad, the Donegal man may have to ride in support of the Olympic time-trial champion for the remainder of the race.
"My job here is to work for the team, going in breakaways, helping the guys," admitted Deignan. "Just because I got a few seconds today, that hasn't changed."