Russell Downing sprinted to his first win in Team Sky colours at stage two of the Critérium international in Corsica.
The Brit narrowly beat Michael Albasini (HTC Columbia) and race leader Pierrick Fedrigo (BBox Bouygues Telecom) on the slightly uphill finish of the 75km morning stage around Porto-Vecchio, following some fine work by his team mates.
“We were all there,” an elated Downing explained. “We had Thomas [Lofkvist] keeping me out of the wind. I was good two kilometers out, but I was too early, in second or third wheel. A bit of a surge went and I ended up fifteenth in line.
“With the help of Lars, I came right round the outside on the roundabout and got a brilliant run, coming from fourth wheel up onto HTC-Columbia and hit out from there. If I’d gone any earlier, I would have died.”
The win comes after a heavy early season racing programme. Downing started racing at the Tour Down Under and has continued as he builds up to the Ardennes Classics.
“The last few weeks I’ve been training hard; in Murcia, I was up there in the sprints and I knew that if things went well today, I could pull this one off. It’s the best feeling,” Downing said.
It is also the culmination of years of hard work to gain his elusive top-tier professional contract. The 32-year-old will now wears the points jersey in the afternoon’s 7.7-kilometre time trial.
Although a crash in the stage finale took out Simon Gerrans, Downing’s success has changed the complexion of the race for Team Sky. Yesterday, Sean Yates expressed disappointment about the team’s performance, after leader Thomas Lofkvist suffered from hunger knock and was dropped five kilometres from yesterday’s finish on the Col de l’Ospedale.
Pierrick Fedrigo remains the overall leader after winning yesterday’s queen stage. Having garnered a handy two bonus seconds from today’s final sprint, the Frenchman now has a 17 second lead over Tiago Machado in the short and technical afternoon time-trial.
Michael Rogers and Cadel Evans are also well-placed, a further ten seconds down on the BBox Bouygues Telecom leader.
Just behind, Briton David Millar is hoping to move into the top five overall.
Critérium international 2010, Stage two: Porto-Vecchio – Porto-Vecchio
1. Russell Downing (GBr) Team Sky, 75km in 1-42-20
2. Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Columbia
3. Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
4. Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
5. Florian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne-Schuller
6. Arnaud Molmy (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
7. Jeremy Galland (Fra) Saur-Sojasun
8. Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Saur-Sojasun
9. Bled Kadri (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
10. Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil
Britons and others
11. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
17. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Transitions
24. Lance Armstrong (Usa) Team RadioShack
41. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana all same time
General classification after stage two
1. Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom 7-01-53
2. Tiago Machado (Por) Team RadioShack at 17secs
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 23secs
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 27secs
5. Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil
6. Chris Horner (Usa) Team RadioShack
7. David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
8. Ben Hermans (Bel) Team RadioShack
9. Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC-Columbia all same time
10. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC-Columbia at 31secs
Britons and others
11. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Transitions at 36secs
22. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 1-23
50. Lance Armstrong (Usa) Team RadioShack at 5-03
84. Russell Downing (GBr) Team Sky at 21-09
Downing claims his first win in Team Sky colours
Fedrigo takes the advantage at Critérium International