Russell Downing got back to winning ways at the weekend with victory in the Chas Messenger Trophy.
The defending Premier Calendar champion could do no wrong in 2008 but had been struggling to land that elusive major win this season, along with the rest of the CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta squad.
Downing made no mistake at the end of a testing 160km as he outsprinted Ian Wilkinson and Kristian House
“We have not had the luck this year – obviously two stages in the Girvan, and Pete [Williams] was up there – but a win overall is a different story, so hopefully the luck has turned round now. I have been going well enough, just puncturing and crashing. Hopefully, that is it now. I have broken the duck and can keep going.”
Team manager Phil Griffiths made his feelings clear to Downing in the week leading up to the Buckinghamshire race.
“Phil went on holiday on Wednesday and he rang me on Thursday and said ‘I need a result: I’ve had enough, so I’m ringing you. The pressure is on’.
“But I said no worries. I love pressure. He was made up to get a result.”
The team placed four riders in a thirty-man break and, with Malcolm Elliott bridging the gap to make five, CandiTV had the upper hand. “But we thought the group was still too big, so we got on the march to split it up,” said Downing.
“It is one of those races where riders go out the back. There were a couple of climbs per lap and the rest was fast, so we didn’t have to worry until the last couple of laps. Everyone was tired: a lot of people are not up to 160km.”
Having whittled the group down to four with Wilkinson, House and Sports Beans-Wilier’s new signing, Jon Tiernan-Locke, Downing settled down for the final kilometres with an eye on the two remaining opponents, Tiernan-Locke fading away on the final climb.
CiCLE Classic winner Wilkinson went early but there was no denying Downing. “I was waiting for him to jump and he did, but you could see he had gone too early. He really went hard but he had dug too deep. He blew and I went round him.”
Downing currently leads the Premier Calendar overall standings from Andy Tennant (Halfords Bikehut). The next round is the Lincoln GP this Sunday (May 10), Downing’s favourite race.
No prizes for guessing who won last year.
Special mention goes to Plowman Craven who stepped in to sponsor the Chas Messenger when lack of funds almost forced its cancellation.
Downing wins a stage of the Girvan
1. Russ Downing Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta in 03:52
2. Ian Wilkinson Halfords Bike Hut
3. Kristian House Rapha Condor
4. Jonathon Tiernan Locke Sports Bean-Wilier
5. Ian Bibby Halfords Bike Hut at 01:19;
6. Chris Newton Rapha Condor at 01:42
7. Mathew Kipling Kuk Kinesis at 02:38
8. Malcolm Elliot Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta
9. Stephen Adams Plowman Craven-Madison
10. Will Bjergfelt Sports Bean-Wilier
11. Matt Stephens Sigma Sport-Specialized-Sportful
12. Yanto Barker Lecol-Colnago
13. Dan Craven Rapha Condor
14. James Sampson Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta
15. Evan Oliphant Plowman Craven-Madison
16. Callum Wilkinson Endura Racing
17. Tom Last Sigma Sport-Specialized-Sportful
18. Ben Greenwood Rapha Condor at 02:56
19. Tom Murray Plowman Craven-Madison
20. Duncan Urquhart Endura Racing at 03:36
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS:
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Sports Beans-Wilier)
|SUPER TEAM CHALLENGE|
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Halfords still rule the roost. Two riders in the top five – Wilkinson and Bibby – give the current leaders equal points to CandiTV for the weekend’s work, so the gap remains the same.
Sports Beans and Rapha scored thanks to Tiernan-Locke and House respectively.
As for Plowmans, they are going nowhere fast.
Halfords Bikehut 68 pts
CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta 51 pts
Sports Beans-Wilier 26 pts
Rapha Condor 17 pts
LeCol-Colnago 10 pts
Plowman Craven-Madison 5 pts
|MAN OF THE RACE|
Man of the Race: Tiernan-Locke
The Devonian recently signed for Sports Beans and promptly put in his best performance of the season at the Chas Messenger.
He just missed the podium after cracking in the closing kilometres but took the King of the Mountains prize as consolation having attacked from the word go. Top ride.