Monday morning blues were the last thing on Russell Downing‘s mind when we spoke to the Team Sky rider after his first weekend of cobbled Classics in Belgium, riding Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday.
“It was awesome,” Downing told Cycling Weekly.
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“In Het Nieuwsblad, I went back to the car for some bottles early on and Scott (Sunderland) told me to go to the front and ride for a bit. I did, taking the front with Kevin Hulsmans, and a bit lasted for two hours.
“Then when the race really got going on the first climb out of Ronse I thought, ‘I’m going to need some slippage room here, but I didn’t drop that far back and got into a decent group and rode to the finish with them.
“It was fantastic to hear about Flecha over the radio. Him winning made my day. He was always up for it having finished second and third, so it was incredible to play a part in him winning.
“Then on Sunday in Kuurne[-Brussels-Kuurne] I was told to go with any early moves, which I did getting in a group of 18 guys. Then an Ag2r guy slapped off on a roundabout and took me down. I got back on but I slipped back when the race went crazy after Oudenaarde, which got me an early shower.
“The weather for that race was apocalyptic, with cold rain and gale force winds. “It was like racing in a hurricane,” Downing said. “When Ian [Stannard] came into the bus afterwards he was frozen.”
Flecha’s win in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Stannard’s third in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne boosted the team’s morale, which was already on a high.
“Sean Yates was that happy he even called me at 8.30 this morning from Spain. It’s already been an amazing experince, not just doing the races at the level I’ve always wanted to, but being with a team where everything is done so well.
“We even rode on special FMB Paris-Roubaix tyres that are hand made and cost a fortune. When you see other teams on ordinary stuff, things like that add to what you can achieve,” Downing told us before slipping out for a quick spin with his brother Dean, then visting his phyiso to check “I’m all straight and in line after falling. Then I’ve got to pack for the Tour of Murcia on Wednesday.”