Russell Downing – earlier this year in his national champs jersey
Yorkshireman Russell Downing, who will lead the DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed team in the upcoming Tour of Britain, threw down the gauntlet to the ProTour teams making their way across the channel when he won the 46th Druivenkoers Overijse race in Belgium yesterday.
Run over a super-tough course consisting of 3 long loops of 30km and 8 finishing laps, the bunch struggled across a total of 22 climbs in this prestigious race that has been won by some of the greatest names in cycling history.
Eddy Merckx and Roger de Vlaeminck have both been winners in the Overijse in its past and recently Johan Museeuw, Vjatcheslav Ekimov, Christophe Brandt and yesterday’s winner of the Eneco Tour of the Benelux, Stefan Schumacher have all added the race to their palmares.
An early break was never given any more than 1’30” as it became clear that the sprinters teams were out to set a fierce pace and whittle the bunch down with hard riding over each of the 8 finishing laps.
With 5 laps to go a big surge by Team Lamonta on the short but sharp cobbled hill just after the start/finish line splintered the bunch and left just 40 riders at the head of affairs. The team attacked again at the feed zone with just 3 laps to go leaving 27 riders in the front. Russell was almost caught out as he himself took a feed bottle but jumped hard and managed to get back to the leading bunch.
“I had good legs, I could feel it when I got over to the leading bunch again,” said Downing, “I almost missed them! I looked around after grabbing a bottle and thought..’what’s going on here?’. It was hard work getting to the front again, just brutal.”
As attack after attack came off the front in the last 3km, Alex Coutts buried himself keeping Russell to the front and as they entered the chicane section with 300m to go Downing was well placed in 2nd wheel thanks to the Scotsman’s efforts.
“I thought it was a bit far out to go so I waited until 250m and let rip. I couldn’t sense anyone come with me and I was amazed that I had enough time to raise my arms coming over the line!”
DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed could not wish for a better run up to the Tour of Britain which begins on the 29th August in Glasgow with Downing targeting stage wins, especially in his home town of Sheffield on Stage 3.
46th Druivenkoers Overijse – 1.1 – Belgium, August 23, 2006 – Result
1. Russell Downing (Gbr) Driving Force Logistics 4.40.00
2. Gabriel Rasch (Nor) Team Maxbo Bianchi
3. Nicolas Maes (Bel) Chocolade Jacques
4. Andreas Schillinger (Ned) Continental Team Milram
5. Steffen Weigold (Ned) Team Lamonta
6. Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
7. Paidi O’Brien (Ire) Sean Kelly Team
8. Cezary Zamana (Pol) Intel-Action
9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Bodysol-Win for Life
10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Bodysol-Win for Life