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East Yorkshire Classic Road Race - NE
Beverley, East Yorkshire, United Kingdom, August 3, 2008
Russell wraps up Downing double
By Gerry McManus
Russell Downing (Pinarello RT) made it a family weekend double when he sprinted home for victory in the East Yorkshire Classic Road Race on Sunday August 3rd. Russell followed up older brother Dean's national criterium championship victory on Friday night with his own special victory in the 98-mile race.
Russell beat Kristian House (Rapha Condor Recycling) in their two up sprint for the line to win the race. Brother Dean went clear in the closing stages to take the final podium place ahead of the four remaining riders who were away for most of the race.
29-year-old Russell from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, dominated the race. He won all-bar-one of the primes in the tough Yorkshire Wolds, put in strong turns to hold off the chasers and when House was the only one who could hold onto his wheel, he towed him around the finishing circuit and still beat him in the sprint. He took victory from under the noses of the Rapha Condor Recycling team who had four riders in the break.
Downing's win also sees him take the honours in the season long British Cycling Premier Calendarseries with a massive points total. He can't be toppled even though there are still two events left. Russell has amassed 925 points from racing in all the eight Premier Calendar events so far and winning six of them. Dean should finish second in the series with his total of 624 points with Evan Oliphant (Plowman Craven RT) third with 473.
"It was a hard day out there today," said the race winner: "You forget how dead these roads are around here. Everyone was trying everything to beat me but it only makes me ride harder. I decided to go for the hills competition because I was isolated in our group with four Rapha guys in it. Our group took a while to get going.
"Rapha were not working too hard early on because they were waiting for Kristian House to come across to us and for a while we were just going at the same speed as the bunch. I could quite easily stayed in bed on Saturday morning after my crash on Friday night but I got myself out for four hours on the bike. I guess that's why I win races because I train hard and racing is easy."
"It is all about preparing for the Tour of Ireland and the Tour of Britain now," continued Downing: "I have already won five UCI ranked races this year and I will be definitely looking for stage wins."
How it unfolded
The race headed out from Beverley through the neutralised section under sunny skies. The first 25 miles went across the Vale of York and were virtually flat. There was continual attacking action a soon as the flag was dropped. Eight riders went clear just as they hit the hilly section and this proved to be the race winning break. Kit Gilham (Kinesis UK) and Russell Downing had forced the pace on a small climb and the group simply drifted clear.
Dean and Russell Downing, Ben Greenwood (Rapha Condor Recycling), Ryan Bonser (Rapha Condor Recycling), Marcin Bialoblocki (Sports Beans – Wilier), Simon Richardson (Plowman Craven), Gilham and Robin Sharman (Sigma Sport) had gone clear but their leading margin reached a minute and stayed that way for some time. All the major teams were represented except for two-man Halfords team but the dynamic duo of Hayles and Southam stayed calm for a while as the leaders stayed within striking distance.
Kristian House (Rapha Condor Recycling) got his orders to jump across to the leaders and he managed this easily enough with perhaps some soft tapping in the break by his team mates helping the Anglo/Texan.
As the race reached the end of the first of three circuits around Warter Wood, the gap to the leaders was growing with a number of ability groups forming in its wake. Rob Hayles was desperately trying to bridge the divide but had Pinarello's Tom Murray along for the ride and he was caught by the main group.
Meanwhile Russell Downing was mopping up maximum points in the mountains competition save for Gilham taking the honours on one. Hayles tried his luck again to escape from the bunch but the break had moved on and he couldn't find the two minutes he needed in the tough energy sapping terrain. The break rode steadily together to reach the steep mile-long climb from Nunburnholme and rode together all the way to the top.
Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport) had chased hard and had got to within a minute of the leaders but received no support from his temporary companions of Rapha duo Graham Briggs and Dale Appleby and was doomed to fail.
The leaders reached Beverley minus Gilham who had fallen back on the run in to the town and they started attacking each other with time to spare on the chase group led by Stephens. There was certainly no brotherly love at hand as Dean attacked through the finish and Russell didn't hesitate in reacting by switching across the road to get on his wheel. Russell was the one to make his attack pay big dividends with only House was able to hold his wheel and he held him off in the final 200m sprint for the line.
"We worked very had today," commented House: "When I got across to the leaders at 50 seconds, I knew I was going well. In the finale there were four of us (Rapha) away and we knew that was the only way we were going to beat Russ at the moment. He is so strong and we knew we were going to have to keep attacking him. Russ attacked and I went with him and thought we were all still together. I looked back and we had a 500m lead and the two of us were away.
"The only option I had was to sit on him because he is so fast in the sprint. You hate riding like that but you have to weigh up you chances. I hoped that Dean would get across to us to give us a stronger position but he didn't make it. Fair do's to Russell. He was the strongest rider on the day and he beat me in the sprint."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Gerry McManus/www.gerrymcmanus.co.uk
1 Russell Downing (Pinarello RT) 4.11.36 2 Kristian House (Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk) 3 Dean Downing (Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk) 0.14 4 Robin Sharman (Sigma Sport RT) 0.17 5 Marcin Bioloblocki (Sports Beans - Wilier) 6 Ben Greenwood (Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk) 7 Simon Richardson (Plowman Craven RT) 0.18 8 Pete Williams (Pinarello RT) 0.22 9 Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport RT) 0.26 10 Kit Gilham (Kinesis UK) 0.32 11 Evan Oliphant (Plowman Craven RT) 12 Sybrandy Wouters (Sigma Sport) 13 Graham Briggs (Rapha Condor Recycling.co.uk) 14 Tom Murray (Pinarello RT) 15 Tom Barras (Plowman Craven RT) 16 Richard Sykes-Popham (KFS Special Vehicles) 17 Lee Davis (Pinarello RT) 18 Mike Harrison (Sigma Sport) 19 Will Bjergfelt (Felt Racing) 20 Liam Holohan (Pearl Azumi-Planet X- High 5)