Russell Downing (NetApp-Endura) readies himself for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix after days of discovery in the Three Days of De Panne. New shoe cleats in place, he went on the attack in today's stage along the Belgian coast.
"I've just been feeling pretty s**t the last couple of days, I was just going backwards in the wind and I didn't know why. Last night I went to put a new set of cleats on my shoes and saw that my right cleat had moved a full 25mm from the front to the back, it must happened when I crashed in Dwars door Vlaanderen last week," Downing told Cycling Weekly.
"I was praying last night that [my muscles] went back to memory, and they did. I was pretty pissed at myself not to be in the splits yesterday. The opportunity was there today. I was right near the front and went with a move."
Downing's group hung off the front of he peloton for much of the morning stage. The sprinters' teams crushed it as the race approached De Panne.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the sprint; Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), yesterday's winner, placed eighth.
In the thick of it
"I'm not through yet, thanks," Downing said when the pack stopped along the straight in De Panne. A woman had reached for his water bottle as he had it in hand.
He will hear more of the same in the next week, as he will be in the thick of it in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"It's quite a good opportunity and a dream come true," Downing continued. "As a boy, I grew up and took a bit of stick for publicising that I'm riding the classics, but when a boy has a dream..."
The dream comes true after twice being on the reserve list with team Sky. He heads NetApp-Endura, a merged team that formed when German sponsor linked with Endura Racing over the winter.
"We'll play the race by ear. It'd be nice to get into a move or something and enjoy it, but we'll see what happens," Downing added.
"I expect it to be pretty noisy on the first big climb that we go up, then that will be it and the legs won't hurt any more."
Besides racing the Scheldeprijs, Downing will also join the team in Paris-Roubaix. It will be a big week, and it is a good thing his cleats are in order.
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