Perhaps they should rename Michaelgate, Downing Street.
For the third time in four years, a Downing won the Lincoln Grand Prix on the cobbled street.
For Russell, the Pinarello rider who is totally dominating the Premier Calendar series, it was his second win there in four years.
Last year?s champion, Dean, his older brother, was the runner-up.
After four successive Premier Calendar wins, it is tempting to say Russell looks like a big fish in a small pond this season.
But he?s not carping on about it. Instead, Downing has switched his focus to the National Championships and the Tour of Britain.
Not that the Premier Calendar is not a major objective, but he holds a lead of almost 200 points and knows that, barring a complete switch-off, he?ll be able to score well enough in the remaining five rounds to hold off the challenge of his brother.
The Plowman Craven duo Evan Oliphant and Simon Richardson are the only other two in with a realistic chance of snatching the title, but they seem stuck the next rung down and need to scrabble up the ladder quickly if they are to make an impression.
Russell puts his dominance down to an excellent winter?s training and the experience of longer, tougher races last year, before his season was curtailed.
?I was doing races of five or six hours and so when it comes to the crunch now I am a lot fresher,? he said. ?I am enjoying riding the bike again. I know how hard I?ve been training and the set-up in the team, the support from Phil Griffiths, it all adds up.
?I know when the moves are going to go and I?ve had the strength to finish it off. A lot of the time it?s a numbers game. You don?t want to find yourself with two Rapha and a couple of Plowman Craven, so it?s a whittling down process.?
At Lincoln, Downing applied the pressure repeatedly to shed Chris Newton and cut Rapha?s influence on the race in half, leaving just his brother to worry about.
A LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE LINCOLN
Downing credits the Lincoln Grand Prix with re-igniting his enthusiasm for racing when he stopped, disillusioned, a few years ago. ?I went over to watch it and people were coming up to me saying ?what are you doing, are you going to make a comeback?? That day I saw Mark Lovatt win it. No offence to Mark at all because he?s class, but I thought, if he can win the Lincoln, so can I.?
That was in 2003 and from there Downing joined Life Repair, then rode in Recycling colours before joining DFL for 2006. Last year came an ill-fated move to HealthNet-Maxxis, the American squad.
Downing says the team told him it would be fine to travel to the States on a standard tourist visa, the sort holidaymakers typically fill out on the plane shortly before landing.
?They said it?d be fine but I was working there and earning good money. I asked them if it was okay and they said ?Yeah, it?s fine?.?
Then he was stopped by immigration officials at Philadelphia in April. He was sent back to Britain and denied a request for a working visa.
NOW FOR THE NATIONALS
Now laeding Pinarello with Malcolm Elliott, Downing wants to repeat his 2005 national championship win. The title race is being held on the same circuit at Duncombe Park in north Yorkshire where he won his red, white and blue jersey.
?It?s on the same course I won on so I am targeting it. I?ll chill a bit now, then try to peak for that. That year I did the East Yorkshire Classic the week before. On the Saturday I did a five-hour training ride and I was really suffering in the East Yorks but come the Nationals I was flying.
?I?ll train hard up to the Grand Prix of Wales a week before the Nationals, then taper off for a week and hope for the same effect.?
After that, he wants a stage win in the Tour of Britain. ?I came third in Sheffield three years ago but winning is something I?ve never done. Nearer the time I?ll look at the stages and pick out one or two that will suit me.?
But he won?t be easing up in the Premier Calendar. ?I?m not going to give out any gifts, but the rest of the team is getting stronger all the time and I?ll definitely work for my team-mates if they are in a position to win.?
AND FOR THE REST?
The rest of the British field will want to put an end to the Downing domination at next month?s Beaumont Trophy.
As Rapha-Condor-Recyling?s manager John Herety said, it?s becoming impossible to avoid the fact that Downing is at least half-a-step ahead of the rest. He said: ?It?s not ideal, but we?re going to have to start working to stop one man. That?s not necessarily good for the racing or the development of young riders but at the moment we know we need to do something to stop him.?
|RUSSELL?S BAD LUCK|
January 2001: Linda McCartney team folds
After riding for two years, mostly in domestic events for the McCartneys, Downing was set to break through as the squad expanded. Unfortunately for the riders, the smoke and mirrors were exposed for what they were, and the lack of funding meant the house of cards came tumbling down.
Late summer 2001: Stagiare place denied
Downing headed to France to ride for UVCA, an amateur club in Troyes. He had 11 wins and a stagiare place for Marc Madiot?s Française des Jeux squad was mooted. But the UCI?s rule book scuppered those plans. Because he?d been registered with Linda McCartney ? even though he only rode domestic and small continental races ? he was deemed to be a professional and therefore ineligble for an end-of-season stagiare ride.
April 2002: Another team bites the dust
He joined the IteamNova.com team, a squad set up by former McCartney team-mate David McKenzie, partly funded by fan donations to the team?s website. It was a team set-up not unlike the non-league football club, Ebbsfleet United. In April, after moving lock and stock to Belgium, the team?s money ran out.
April 2007: Refused visa for the USA
Stopped at Philadelphia airport and interrogated for seven hours after trying to return to the US to race for his HealthNet-Maxxis team. He was refused entry to the country and forced to fly back to Britain. In June his application for a work visa was rejected.
October 2007: Robbed at gunpoint on holiday
Not cycling related, but while on holiday in Venezuela, Downing?s taxi was held-up by a gunman.
Battle of the Brothers and more from Lincoln
? Premier Calendar standings
? Battle of the Brothers hots up
? CW’s Super Team Challenge