Russell Downing secured a second consecutive win in the Premier Calendar when he sprinted to victory at the end of the Beaumont Trophy in Northumberland on Sunday.
Russell Downing, the 33-year-old Endura Racing rider from Rotherham, showed a blistering turn of pace to take the win ahead of Chris Opie (UK Youth) and Marcin Bialoblocki (Node 4-Giordana) and put himself in contention for the overall Premier Calendar Series.
Downing last won the overall series in 2009, and he looks set to make a real fight of it this time with team-mate Scott Thwaites and Node 4-Giordana rival Marcin Bialoblocki.
With just two rounds remaining of the series, Endura Racing have left the other teams to fight for scraps having placed a rider on the top of the podium in every one of the five rounds so far.
But early in the Beaumont Trophy it looked like Endura were having an off day with Pete Williams (Node 4-Giordana) and Evan Oliphant (Raleigh-GAC) breaking away and opening up a lead of several minutes.
However it was one of several breaks that proved ultimately in vain with the strong wind and rain making it difficult to sustain an escape.
Later in the race a group of five got clear with Rob Partridge (Endura Racing), Simon Yates (100 Per Cent ME), Simon Richardson (IG Sigma Sport), Bernie Sulzberger (Raleigh-GAC) and Mike Northey (Node 4-Giordana).
They were quickly joined by several others, including two more Raleigh riders in Liam Holohan and Matt Holmes, while Wouter Sybrandy (IG Sigma Sport), Dave Clarke (Node 4-Giordana) and Paul Voss (Endura Racing) also got across. Richard Lang was Rapha Condor Sharp’s lone representative in this break, and their pace was high enough to create a worrying gap between themselves and the bunch at a crucial time in the race.
However, a response came as Rapha Condor Sharp drove the bunch forward with an impressive display: Richard Handley, Chris Jenning, Oliver Rossi, Kristian House and Ben Grenda all taking big turns on the front to close down the leaders and bring together a 32-strong leading group.
This leading group split up again as the pace was kept high, but 16 riders hurtled towards the final lap with hopes of glory in their minds. Node4 Giordana rider Marcin Bialoblocki had suffered two mechanical problems earlier in the race but with the help of team-mate Matt Cronshaw had battled his way back up to the leading group and was looking determined to keep the Endura team from dominating the Premier Calendar series.
Into the final 400 metres and Endura riders Scott Thwaites and Russ Downing were shoulder to shoulder at the head of the sprinting group. Downing led his young team mate into the finishing straight but Opie and Bialoblocki were coming back at the Endura riders and with Thwaites fading in the final yards Downing held on to win by the shortest of margins from 24 year old Truro rider Chris Opie. Marcin Bialoblocki was third, with Thwaites claiming fourth and some valuable points for the Premier Calendar series.
Downing’s aggressive style of sprinting led to Node 4 team manager Malcolm Elliott launching an appeal on behalf of his rider Marcin Bialoblocki, claiming Downing had not maintained a straight line for the final 400 metres impeding Bialoblocki. Chief commissaire Kevan Sturgeon reviewed the video tapes from the finishing straight, spoke to the other commissaires and decided Downing’s victory had been fair. The result stood and the riders were all smiles and handshakes on the podium.
British Cycling correspondent Andrew Kennedy spoke to the riders after the finish and got these reactions:
Russell Downing: “All credit to Rapha they did an amazing job in bringing back the leaders in the final few laps. Into the headwind section we had five Endura riders working hard in that final move, we were all working for Scott, then at 400 metres to go I struck out, Scott was there but didn’t come round me as I was expecting. I was shouting a lot at our riders in the final few km, but you have to do that to give them an adrenaline rush and help them do their job”.
“Today was very tough into the wind, the Ryals climb was hard, but with the tailwind pushing us up and making it fast, it was strangely a lot harder than if it had been a headwind”.
“Another good day for Endura, we set out to win every race and that’s what we’ve managed to do so far in the Premier Calendar Series, we are all very happy”.
Asked about the controversy surrounding Russell Downing’s sprint Team UK Youth rider Chris Opie said, “To be honest I didn’t see anything wrong with Russ’s sprint, I don’t see what all the fuss is about”.
On the race he said, “Today was a long hard race, I’ve been struggling with my form since the Tour Series and that crash I had gave me a sore neck and back, I’m just about getting back some form. The conditions today were perfect for me, I love the damp fresh weather, I find it easier to breathe and my legs feel better than when it’s hot and humid”.
“Endura were making the climb up the Ryals very tough, but I benefitted from the Rapha boys working to bring back the leading group. In the final few laps the race split up and reformed quite a lot and I managed to get back to the leading group only with about three quarters of a lap to go”.
“My team mate Yanto Barker was looking after me in the final few km and helped me get a good position for the sprint. I was up there with Russ, Scott and Marcin. Russ was just that bit quicker and he deserved the win, I’m very happy with my performance today”.
Not so happy was third placed rider Marcin Bialoblocki who told us, “The race today was a big nightmare for me, I punctured on the 2nd lap and my spare wheel was rubbing on the frame, which prevented me from chasing back on. I stopped again and got a better wheel. I then chased back onto the last group, attacked through them and rode across to the next group. Luckily my team mate Matt Cronshaw was waiting for me and together we got across to the leading group”.
“My legs were good and I was feeling very strong, but into the finish Russell wasn’t riding in a straight line, he was everywhere and it wasn’t right, he obstructed me in the sprint and we have put in an objection about his riding”.
1 Russell Downing (Endura Racing) 4:18:38
2. Chris Opie Team UK Youth
3. Marcin Bialoblocki Node 4 – Giordana
4. Scott Thwaites Endura Racing
5. Pete Williams Node 4 – Giordana
6. Peter Hawkins IG Markets-Sigma Sport
7. Ben Grenda Rapha Condor Sharp
8. Dale Appleby Metaltek Scott
9. David Clarke Node 4 – Giordana
10. Owain Doull 100% ME
11. Simon Richardson IG Markets-Sigma Sport
12. Evan Oliphant Team Raleigh-GAC
13. George Moor Cycle Premier - Kovert
14. Richard Lang Rapha Condor Sharp
15. George Atkins 100% ME
16. Tom Steward RST Racing Team
17. Ben Greenwood Vanillabikes.com
18. Wouter Sybrandy IG Markets-Sigma Sport
19. Matt Cronshaw Node 4 – Giordana
20. Chris Jennings Rapha Condor Sharp
Series Standings after 5 rounds (full standings on series home page)
1 Scott Thwaites Endura Racing 344
2 Russell Downing Endura Racing 275
3 Marcin Bialoblocki Node 4 – Giordana 255
4 Pete Williams Node 4 – Giordana 174
6 Peter Hawkins IG Markets-Sigma Sport 154
5 Jonathan McEvoy Endura Racing 154
7 Ben Grenda Rapha Condor Sharp 153
9 Simon Richardson IG Markets-Sigma Sport 149
8 Erick Rowsell Endura Racing 149
10 Chris Opie Team UK Youth 141
British Cycling would like to thank the organising team, officials and everyone else who helped promote this event. Our sport could not exist without the hundreds of people, many of them unpaid volunteers, who put in many hours of hard work running events, activities and clubs.