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Downing hails Abergavenny ahead of Elite Series arrival
Photo: Downing (right) is a keen admirer of Abergavenny
Abergavenny is right up there among the best cycling venues in the UK, believes British road ace Dean Downing.
The Rotherham man is giving up being with his daughter Lily on her second birthday to travel hundreds of miles down to the Gwent town and back in order to compete in the Get Connected Welsh Open Criteriums.
The 8th July race is also the third round of the British Cycling Elite Circuit Series and will be recorded by Sky Sports to be shown within a few days.
And Downing, whose brother Russ did the double of victory in the Welsh Open Criteriums and the Grand Prix of Wales in 2008, is targetting the town centre street circuit of Abergavenny in round three of the five-round Elite Circuit Series. Abergavenny is the only leg of the series in the south of the UK, and, said Downing, he can't wait to get his pedals turning.
Dean, whose brother Russell rides for Team Sky said: "I think Abergavenny has got a huge amount to offer cycling at the minute and it's really great that they are able to put events on of a national standard like this. Bill (Owen. Organiser) has been around cycling for a very long time and he has got a good team around him to put these sort of things on. Abergavenny is right up there as the best organised events in the country. When we had the National Road Race Championships in 2009, I saw the pictures of my team-mate Kristian House winning and the crowds there were four deep - which is unheard of in domestic cycling."
The Welsh Open Criterium is just one of three races on the night around the twisting but testing circuit in the Gwent town centre. And with national ranking points and prize money on the line, there will be no holds barred as the riders go all out to claim the top spot.
Downing, who rides with House for the Rapha Condor Sharp stable, said: "Our riders always do well in these sort of races and some of them will be targeting the crits this season rather than the road races."
He also does not want to be second to Wilkinson again. Downing said: "Second means nothing. If I came second to Lance Armstrong, nobody would bother but, if I beat him, everyone would talk about it."
So, with his local knowledge, Downing believes he has every chance of landing the Welsh Open title again and, he said: "It will be a nice birthday present for my two-year-old daughter."
The Welsh Open Criterium is only one part of the evening which also features Youth Races and a Traders Race where businessmen from around Abergavenny ride around the circuit that the Elite stars will navigate later.
It is the opening night of the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling which features two mass participation, public rides - the Iron Mountain Sportif and the Tour of the Black Mountains - on Saturday July 9 and Sunday July 10.
Entry details for all parts of the Festival - including the Youth Races at the Welsh Open Criterium and the Sportifs - are on www.abergavennyfestivalofcycling.co.uk.