RAPHA Condor-Recycling team leader Dean survived a puncture and battled back to the front before sprinting to victory in the 167-kilometre second stage of the FBD Insurance Ras in Claremorris on Monday.
Downing was attacking for most of the day, and after being part of a big split mid-way through the race he suffered a rear wheel puncture and was forced to watch the bunch sail past while waiting for a change of wheel.
?I was really angry about getting the puncture because I was feeling good,? he said. ?By the time I got going again I was a minute down, but I was soon on to the bunch and basically just sailed through them. Luckily the break slowed up a bit and I caught them quite quickly.?
By that stage the break was 14-strong and established a lead of around two minutes on the bunch. With around six kilometres remaining Plowman Craven?s Evan Oliphant attacked, and Downing and Stephen Gallagher (Ireland-An Post) took his wheel as the trio gained around 20 seconds.
After trying to go it alone in the closing stages Downing won a three-up sprint for the line from Oliphant, while Gallagher took third, just ahead of his rapidly closing team-mate Mark Cassidy, while the bunch was just over one minute back.
And Oliphant?s team-mate Alex Higham took the main climb of the day, the third category Slieve Gamph, to boost his points tally in the competition.
Gallagher is now leading the Ras by just one second from Downing, who added: ?We?ll just have to see how things go from now on. There are a few bumps in the road, so we?ll see how I cope, but I fancy getting in yellow at some point.?
FBD Insurance Ras (Stage two, Ballinamore to Claremorris, 167km).-
1 Dean Downing (Rapha Condor-Recycling) 3-55-48
2 Evan Oliphant (Plowman Craven RT) at 1sec
3 Stephen Gallagher (Ireland-An Post) same time
4 Mark Cassidy (Ireland-An Post) at 4sec
5 Martin Grashev (Bulgaria, Nessebar) at 8sec
6 Renaud Pioline (France, Provence Alpes Cote) same time
7 Alex Higham (Plowman Craven RT) at 9sec
8 Jaroslaw Dabrowski (Poland) same time
9 Steves Aubert (France, Provence Alpes Cote) at 11sec
10 Havard Nybo (Norway, Sparebanken) same time