Russell Downing aims to win his seventh Premier Calendar race of an extraordinary season as he prepares to represent Great Britain at the World Championships next weekend.
The Candi TV-Pinarello rider has won six rounds of the elite road race series this year, and already has the Premier Calendar title in the bag, but he wants to end the campaign in the best possible style.
And he has revealed that it would take ?a really big offer? to lure him away from the Candi TV-Pinarello team.
Downing said Sunday?s Richmond Grand Prix was the ideal preparation for the World Championships and said that if the opportunity to win came along he wouldn?t be able to hold back.
?I love winning so if I got into a position where I could win, I?d obviously go for it,? he said.
?But the team has worked so hard for me all year that I?d love to pay them back if I had the chance, so we?ll have to see how the race develops.?
Having been named in the Worlds team, the thought of skipping the final Premier Calendar race had not crossed his mind. ?There?s no point. I?d have to do a big training ride instead. So I?ll train hard Friday, do a smaller ride Saturday and then race on Sunday.?
The circuit has changed this year, taking in the tough climb of Butter Tubs and Scarth Nick before three ascents of the Waitwith Bank on the finishing circuit.
If anything, the organiser has made the race suit Downing even more than it did last year, when he dropped David Clarke on the run-in to win in the rain.
?If there?s more climbing in it, that?s going to mean fewer people will be in with a shout,? Downing said. ?And yes, it suits me.?
Premier Calendar 2008
Bikeline: Dean Downing
Girvan: Russell Downing
Tour of the Reservoir: Russell Downing
Chas Messenger: Russell Downing
Lincoln GP: Russell Downing
Beaumont Trophy: Rob Hayles
Tour of Blackpool: Russell Downing
East Yorkshire Classic: Russell Downing
Tour of Pendle: Rob Hayles
Richmond GP: September 21
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STAYING PUT, OR MOVING ON?
After such domination at home, and a few superb results overseas, such as three stage wins at the Cinturon Ciclista in Majorca and another, plus second overall, at the Tour of Ireland, speculation that Downing could move to a bigger team is inevitable.
But he said: ?I haven?t signed anything but I don?t think there?s much out there.
?It?s been a great year results-wise, press-wise and I am really happy.
?I have been honest with Phil [Griffiths, the team manager and owner] and I know he wouldn?t stand in my way but it?d have to be a big offer. I?ve really enjoyed riding for this team and working with Phil.
?We?ve got a new sponsor on board and hopefully that?ll allow us to do a bit more abroad. After the Worlds I?ll sit down with Phil and we?ll sort it out.
?It?s like Phil has had a new lease of life too. He?s loved being involved with a team again and it?s a bit of a reward for all the success he?s had building up his company [distributors, Yellow].?
CURRENT PREMIER CALENDAR STANDINGS
1. Russell Downing (Candi TV-Pinarello) 935pts
2. Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor-Recycling) 624pts
3. Evan Oliphant (Plowman Craven) 473.5pts
4. Rob Hayles (Halfords Bikehut) 462pts
5. Simon Richardson (Plowman Craven) 408pts
6. Rob Partridge (Rapha-Condor-Recycling) 326pts
7. Marcin Bialoblocki (Sports Beans) 296pts
8. Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Recyclin) 392pts
9. Matthew Higgins (Team Corley Cycles) 269pts
10. Peter Williams (Candi TV-Pinarello) 261pts
DOMESTIC SEASON DRAWING TO A CLOSE
The Richmond Grand Prix marks the end of the Premier Calendar and there is still plenty to play for.
With every round of the series won by either a member of the Downing family or Rob Hayles, the rest of the bunch have some making up to do.
Rapha have had a string of bad luck with injuries at the wrong time of the season, notably to Chris Newton in the spring and Ben Greenwood, who broke his ankle at the Tour of Ireland just weeks after returning from a lengthy injury. A victory, perhaps for someone like Kristian House, would end their season on a high note. Or will one of the smaller teams strike gold ? one of the revelations of the season, Matthew Higgins of Team Corley Cycles, perhaps?
Plowman Craven have not enjoyed a vintage campaign ? apart from a strong showing at the Ras ? and desperately need a victory in the Premier Calendar.
Then there is the possible transfer merry-go-round. No one knows, yet, what is happening to the Halfords Bikehut set-up for 2009 and there are changes afoot at Plowman Craven, with Tony Gibb rumoured to be taking over from Garry Beckett as team boss.
And, while on the subject of rumours Plowman Craven?s Simon Richardson is a potential target for Rapha-Condor-Recycling, while PCA?s Tony Gibb has apparently sounded out Halfords rider Tom Southam.
So, Sunday offers the last chance to even the scores, or make an impression.
|RICHMOND GRAND PRIX|
Sunday, September 21
Starts: 11.30am at Richmond Market Place
Finish: 3.15pm (approximately) at Richmond Market Place
Distance: 80.8 miles
Course description: A big 49-mile loop takes in the climbs of Butter Tubs Pass and Scarth Nick before three laps of a circuit based on the Waitwith Bank hill.
The race was founded in 1946 as part of the Richmond Cyclists? Meet. The event became a round of the Premier Calendar last year and was won by Russell Downing, then riding for HealthNet-Maxxis. The race winner will be presented with the Arthur Metcalfe trophy, honouring one of Britain?s finest riders. Metcalfe won the Milk Race in 1964, was national road race champion and winner of the BBAR in 1966 and finished 69th in the 1967 Tour de France. He died aged 64 in 2002.
By organiser Geoff Lloyd
?The course has had quite a few changes this year. Last year there were seven laps of what is this year the finishing circuit, so there were seven climbs of Waitwith Bank.
?This year there is a single big loop followed by three laps of that same circuit and I think it?s going to make it a harder race.
?The Butter Tubs pass is a tough, two-mile climb with a couple of one-in-four sections. It?s a real feature of the race. I anticipate the race staying together until the bottom of that but by the top the gap between the front and the back could be four or five minutes.
?From there the run down hill and flat should be with the prevailing wind, so it?ll be difficult to regroup. If riders get away there may be opportunities for them.
?Then there is Scarth Nick, which will catch people out because it gains 100 metres in height in 500 metres, so it?s one-in-five. Not a lot of people know about it.
?The finishing circuit is pretty tough too. The Waitwith Bank hill will provide the final sort out. Then the finish is on cobbles in the Market Place.
?People have said it?s too hard, and coming late in the season maybe it is viewed too hard too late, but I disagree.
?It?s good to end the season on a high. There are a lot of rolling races, so it?s nice to have something a little different. A lot of riders have said they weren?t going to enter but when they found out it was going over Butter Tubs they felt they couldn?t miss it. It?s certainly going to be a test and we don?t anticipate a sprint finish, so we should get a worthy winner. Personally I think it?s got Russell Downing?s name all over it.
?Hopefully the weather will be better than last year, when it was seven degrees, raining and howling a gale.?
1. Russell Downing (HealthNet-Maxxis) in 3-21-44
2. David Clarke (private member) at 20sec
3. Gordon McCauley (Plowman Craven) at 44sec
|HOW I WON?|
By 2007 champion, Russell Downing
?It was a really horrible day, weather-wise. I had come back from America and was relieved to get back to winning races again.
?I rmember there was a break of six which I made and then I went again on the run-in and only Dave Clarke came with me.
?I knew it was quite twisty on the run-in so I made sure I was at the front to get into the corners first. I accelerated through one of them and shook him off and that was it, put my head down and went for it.?
|BATTLE OF THE BROTHERS|
Russell Downing is standing in the kitchen having eaten all the chocolate cake. Dean is five minutes late home and has missed out on all but the crumbs and a little bit of icing.
That is how the Battle of the Brothers has panned out. Russell leads nine rounds to four with one race remaining.
Can Dean land one last blow by way of consolation? Given the severity of the course in Richmond, it could be tough.
Perhaps next year Russell will have to be handicapped to ensure a more even fight.
Dean needn?t feel too bad, though. Let?s face it, there?s hardly anyone in the domestic bunch who has got the better of Russell this year.
|CW?S SUPER TEAM CHALLENGE|
Thanks to Russell Downing, Pinarello ? or Candi TV-Pinarello to give them their new name ? have wrapped up cyclingweekly.co.uk?s inaugural Super Team Challenge with a race to spare.
Points have been on offer at every round of the Premier Calendar, plus the international one-day races such as the East Midlands Cicle Classic and GP Wales, plus the National Championships and Tour of Britain.
Although he was wearing the colours of Great Britain during the Tour of Britain, Rob Hayles?s two second places behind Alessandro Petacchi netted some points for Halfords Bikehut and lifted them above Rapha-Condor-Recycling.
Can Rapha grab second place back again with a podium position in Richmond?
1. Candi TV-Pinarello 101pts
2. Halfords Bikehut 48pts
3. Rapha-Condor-Recycling 44pts
4. 100% ME 14pts
5. Plowman Craven 11pts