Birthday present for Fonzy with career highlight so far in Ireland
After back-to-back victories in the Premier Calendar, there is little doubt that Russell Downing has shown himself to be the best British based rider and in Ireland he showed yet again why he’s worthy of a professional contract at the highest level when he won his biggest race so far, the UCI ranked 2.1 Tour of Ireland.
Racing for the UK based team of CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta, Russell lost the race last year when in yellow but this year made no mistake, wearing the yellow jersey from start to finish after winning the first stage and then coming second on the final stage in a two up sprint finish to show he really was the best in the race.
The stage race began with Russell winning the first stage and then, with the help of his CandiTV/Marshalls Pasta team, keeping that jersey after stage 2 won by Mark Cavendish (his 21st win of the year no less).
As we have seen so many times in the UK, when Russell Downing goes on the attack, there are few that can stay with him and on stage 3, feeling great on his 31st birthday, Downing went into attack mode wearing yellow and yet again, few could hold his wheel. In fact only one could do so, Lars Petter Nordhaug and the Norwegian went on to beat Downing in a photo finish of a sprint to decide the final stage.
It was the perfect answer by Downing to all his rivals who had been trying to dethrone him from his yellow jersey by attacking him and unsurprisingly, it was the team of Columbia who started the moves, the same team who attacked him last year and took the jersey from him on the final stage.
But Downing, in front of a massive crowd on St Patrick’s Hill which was six deep in places, was greeted to a wall of sound as he attacked the 25% gradient of this wall of a climb which looked like a waterfall with the water from the rain on it. When a dangerous break got away on the climb, Downing was equal to the challenge and joined famous names like defending champion Marco Pinotti (Columbia), Karsten Kroon (Team Saxo Bank), Matti Breschel (Team Saxo Bank), and Stuart O’Grady (Saxo Bank).
Into the final lap of the race, Russell Downing showed the courage of a champion by attacking while wearing yellow and Lars Petter Nordhaug went with him all the way to the finish where Downing, despite losing the stage, had won his biggest race to date, a stage race no less and deservedly so. A sign of his domination was the fact Russell also won the Points jersey as well as yellow. Quite a stunning result overall.
Even the legend Lance Armstrong congratulated him by saying on his Twitter page, “Congratulations to Russell Downing for winning the Tour of Ireland. Very impressive, mate.” We can only hope that this victory can finally see the Rotherham rider get what he has deserved for a long time, and that is a pro contract in Europe. Well done Russell.
As for Russell, he told Shane Stokes at CyclingNews.com, "The guys were attacking me all day. It was pretty nervous racing and hard to work out what was going to come back and what could stay away.I actually got in a move myself to relieve the stress and try to put people on the back foot. I think it worked, it got people panicking."
"I felt strong out there. As soon as we came onto the big climb I was really good. I looked across at Pinotti and his tongue was out and everything, but I was there feeling pretty comfortable. This is definitely my biggest result."
1. Russell Downing (GBr) Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta 14:18:03
2. Lars Nordhaug (Nor) TMB Joker Bianchi 0:00:23
3. Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:43
4. Alexander Kolobnev (Rus) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:45
5. Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team Columbia - HTC 0:00:49
15. Kristian House (GBr) Rapha Condor Cycling Team 0:03:17
21. Malcolm Elliott (GBr) Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta
26. Ian Wilkinson (GBr) Team Halfords 0:05:15
28. Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervélo Test Team
29. Robert Partridge (GBr) Team Halfords
35. Mark McNally (GBr) Team Halfords
39. Chris Newton (GBr) Rapha Condor Cycling Team 0:12:35
42. Dale Appleby (GBr) Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta 0:15:41
44. Peter Williams (GBr) Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta 0:20:12
Team General Classification
1. Team Saxo Bank 42:56:48
2. BMC Racing Team 0:03:27
3. Cervélo Test Team 0:03:29
4. Candi TV - Marshalls Pasta 0:04:50
7. Team Halfords 0:18:43
1. Russell Downing (GBr) Candi TV 31 pts