Russell Downing Delighted with Team Sky
Story posted May 21, by Jonathan Turner for Team Sky
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Interview with Russell Downing
Russell Downing was delighted with the team's triumphant performance at the Tour de Picardie and believes the entire squad has now grown into a formidable race unit. The 31-year-old finished third on stage two - and fourth in the overall standings in northern France - despite taking a supporting role which helped Ben Swift secure Team Sky's first general classification success.
That display followed a strong spring campaign for Downing which had yielded his first individual win at the Critérium International as well as a team time trial victory in the Tour of Qatar. The Yorkshireman had gone into the Tour de Picardie after a three and a half week break in his race programme and was happy to make such a solid contribution.
He said: "Going into it, I wasn't sure how I'd be feeling. The plan had originally been for the team to work for myself and Ben, but I put my hands up at the start and said I thought Ben would have better legs in the sprint, so I then became the last man in his lead-out train. It turned out to be a great weekend and the whole team was amazing from start to finish. The racing was really fast, especially in the first few hours of each stage until the breakaway groups got away."
"We took the jersey on the second day and controlled the final stage brilliantly. We wanted the break to go early, and that happened, so we got ourselves to the front and made sure their advantage never went over three minutes. When we hit the final circuit we still had three or four men on the front and my job was to keep Ben safely positioned in the top 20."
"He came past me in the final 300m and I could see he was in the top 10 so from then on it was just a matter of cruising across the line and celebrating a job well done."
The crowds urge Russell on as he gives it full gas on the infamous climb of Michaelgate.
Before Picardie, Downing had invited Swift and Geraint Thomas along with him to defend his title at the Lincoln GP. The trio sported their Team Sky jerseys and it was the first chance for British fans to see the riders competing on home soil. Downing was buoyed by the reception they received from riders and supporters alike, and eventually led the team home in sixth position.
"The Lincoln GP has always been one of my favourite races and it just happened to slot in nicely with my race programme," he added. It was a great hit-out after two weeks of training and definitely helped me get back up to speed. The fact there were only three of us there meant we were always going to be up against it, but we still rode well as a team and ended up sixth, 16th and 27th. Obviously I would have loved to have defended my title, but sixth was still good on the back of a two-week break and it was encouraging to see I still had some legs."
"It was brilliant to race in Britain for Team Sky. There was definitely a heightened interest because we were there and it was nice to see that support. We enjoyed catching up with riders we'd been racing against in the last few years, and they were pleased to see us doing well."
Downing is now training hard for his next phase of the season but has been keeping a close eye on events at the Giro d'Italia and has been impressed with his team-mates' persistence in such testing conditions. "I've been getting out on the bike for about five hours every day and then coming back in time to watch the guys on TV. They have been doing really well. Everyone has stuck together, stuck to the plan, and there's not a lot else they could have done."
"They've had their fair share of bad luck, but the race was turned on its head on stage 11 and that will have made the disappointments of the first week seem like a distant memory. The whole squad has got to the point now where everyone knows each other so well, and hopefully that understanding will mean there are even greater successes to come."