England’s Russell Downing aims to strike again at Amstel Gold this weekend, off the back of his recent stage win at the Critérium International.
The Team Sky sprinter said this morning that he has Dutch classic on his list of objectives. “I am aiming for the lumpier races, like Amstel,” Downing told Cycling Weekly. “I’ve never ridden it before, but I will have a chance to view the climbs beforehand.”
Downing races Brabantse Pijl today in Overijse, Belgium, and then will stay with the team in Maastricht, The Netherlands, prior to Amstel Gold on Sunday. He plans to preview Amstel Gold’s climbs with Sky’s other riders, like Simon Gerrans and Bradley Wiggins.
The race covers 257.3 kilometres and 31 sharp climbs before its finish in Valkenburg. Russian Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) won the race last year ahead of two Dutchmen. Australian Simon Gerrans finished seventh and, after switching teams over the off-season to join Sky, will be one of the leaders with Downing.
A British rider has only once appeared on the Amstel Gold podium – Malcolm Elliott placed third in 1987. Armstrong was the last English speaker on the podium when he placed second in 2001 behind Erik Dekker.
Downing, 31, approaches these races with confidence after taking his first win for Sky at the Criterium Intertional in Corsica, ahead of a field that included Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador.
“I went there with the point of winning that stage, so I am happy with that,” he continued. “It was good just to put some foundations down in my first year at the top ranks. To win a race so early was also good because it lets me relax and concentrate on later goals.”
Following Amstel Gold, Downing will race the Tour of Romandy in Switzerland.