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Downing sticks it to ProTour teams, wins Tour of Ireland

  • By Steve Frothingham
  • Published Aug. 23, 2009
  • Updated Aug. 23, 2009 at 10:53 AM EDT

Former mountain biker Nordhaug scores a rain-drenched stage win

By Ben Delaney

2009 Tour of Ireland: Russell Downing (Candi TV) stands atop the final podium after a rain-soaked finale.

Photo: Graham Watson

Russell Downing (Candi TV) stuck it to the ProTour squads at the Tour of Ireland Sunday, escaping on the weather-shortened circuits of Cork to take the overall win and second on the stage behind Norway’s former road and cross-country champion Lars Petter Nordhaug (Joker-Bianchi).

Saxo Bank animated the rain-drenched stage from Bantry along the southern coast to Cork. With five riders within shooting distance of the GC, the Danish ProTour team stacked many of the day’s early breaks and pushed the pace.

On a hill just outside the finishing circuits where water cascaded down the pavement, Saxo splintered the peloton into fragments. With the rain pouring down in sheets, race organizers reduced the race from three to two of the technical, 15km finishing circuits.

Coming across the line for the start of the circuit, 10 men were clear, including three Saxo riders, two Columbia men, Downing and Nordhaug. What was left of the peloton came through 30 seconds or so behind.

Although the 23-percent St. Patrick’s Hill put the sting in riders’ legs, the technical descents followed by tight corners put the fear into a few riders, and sent at least a few to the ground or into barriers.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) dropped out before tackling the Hill, and many riders soon followed suit. Only 47 men finished.

“My back was out today,” Armstrong said. “And when your back is out, everything is out. And on a circuit like this — steep climbs, explosive — it just wasn’t going to happen.”

In the closing kilometers, the Saxo riders launched attack after attack from the small front group, but ultimately it was Nordhaug’s flyer with about 5km to go that stuck. Downing jumped across and the pair drove it home.

Matti Breschel — who won the Philadelphia International Championship for Saxo Bank (then CSC) last year — won the small bunch sprint behind for third on the stage and slipped from second to third overall.

“Russell was for sure the strongest today,” Breschel said. “We attacked him, attacked him, all the time. In the end he just took the race in his own hands and went away. It was amazing, a well-earned win for sure.”

It was an especially sweet victory for Downing, who last year slipped out of the overall lead on the same circuit on the final day.

“It feels like I’ve been knocking on the door for so long,” Downing said. “I’ve prepared so well for this in my own backyard, just training and smashing myself to oblivion — five, six hours just always pressing on. I think it paid off there.”

To put the cherry on top for the British rider who rode for the American Health Net-Maxxis squad in 2007, the win came on his 31st birthday.

A soaked start, and big cogs

As the rain started pouring down at the coastal start in Bantry, team mechanics were putting larger cogs on the riders’ bikes in preparation for St. Patrick’s Hill. With rain forecast for the finish, riders were expecting to have to stay in the saddle for the climb.

Saxo Bank’s Stuart O’Grady ran a SRAM Red 11-26 cassette. King of the Mountains jersey holder Matt Wilson (Team Type 1) opted for a 28-tooth Shimano cog. Downing went with a 25, while his Candi TV teammates had 27s.

“If you want to make the race, you can’t have anything more than a 25,” BMC manager John Lelangue said at the start.

The action was on from the start, as attacks and counterattacks came down as thick and fast as the rain. Besides small moves, two large groups of more than 20 riders were clear early on, but the peloton was having none of it.

A strong tailwind and the aggressive racing pushed the pace up to 50 and 60kph.

O’Grady, KOM contender Jay Thomson (MTN-Energade) and Jetse Bol (Rabobank) formed a successful alliance off the front for a number of kilometers. After Bol was dropped, O’Grady and Thomson built up a maximum lead of 90 seconds. Wilson put his Type 1 teammates on the front to chase, and the pair’s advantage was cut to 20 seconds.

“Just when we were about to catch him he dropped his chain,” Wilson said.

At 132km, the race turned onto an uncategorized but sharp hill where water cascaded down as through a funnel.

O’Grady soldiered on alone, but was ultimately caught on the run-in to the circuits. After bombing down Blarney Road, the group turned a sharp left onto the tight and super steep Baker’s Road.

“I didn’t know it was coming,” Armstrong said.

Nor did a few others, evidently. A few guys dropped their chains shifting from their biggest gear to a much smaller one. At the front, Saxo turned the screws and a split formed. Soon, it was a 10-man race, and fans covered by umbrellas and rain jackets packed St. Patrick’s Hill to watch the battle.

“The rain was unbelievable coming into town, and the water going up (St. Patrick’s) climb was like a waterfall,” Wilson said. “It was so much that you just had to block it off and settle into your own rhythm.”

Downing certainly found his rhythm.

“The weather probably played into my hands there,” Downing said. “But something was shining on me today.”

American Craig Lewis (Columbia-HTC) placed fourth on the day and seventh overall. His teammate and 2008 Tour of Ireland winner Marco Pinotti ended up fifth overall, behind Saxo Bank’s Alexander Kolobnev.

“On this circuit — I hoped the people had fun today watching us — it was so hard,” Pinotti said. “I tried to make a selection since the beginning. But Downing was very strong today, he was chasing down everything. He deserves the win.

“Saxo had the numbers, yeah, but sometimes you don’t have the legs. They tried, we tried, but in the end Downing dropped everybody.”

Nordhaug not only earned the stage but second place overall.

“Saxo Bank and Columbia were attacking Russell pretty hard, so I knew I had to try and go with them, but I couldn’t go with every move,” Nordhaug said.

“There was one time with 7km to go where I was dropped and I had to chase back on. When I caught I was so tired, but I thought I could be more tired, so I just attacked.”

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage results: | (GC standings)

  • 1. Petter Nordhaug Lars (NOR), Joker Bianchi, 4:00:10
  • 2. Russell Downing (GBR), Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, same time
  • 3. Matti Breschel (DEN), Team Saxo Bank, at 0:33
  • 4. Craig Lewis (USA), Team Columbia-HTC, s.t.
  • 5. Alexander Kolobnev (RUS), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 6. Mathias Frank (SUI), BMC Racing Team, s.t.
  • 7. Steven Kruijswijk (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
  • 8. Marco Pinotti (ITA), Team Columbia-HTC, s.t.
  • 9. Karsten Kroon (NED), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 10. Denys Kostyuk (UKR), ISD-Neri, s.t.
  • 11. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN), Team Saxo Bank, at 0:42
  • 12. Kristian House (GBR), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, at 0:51
  • 13. Jason Mccartney (USA), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 14. Andrey Grivko (UKR), ISD-Neri, s.t.
  • 15. Florian Stalder (SUI), BMC Racing Team, s.t.
  • 16. Philip Deignan (IRL), Cervélo TestTeam, s.t.
  • 17. Luis Rubiera Jose (ESP), Astana, s.t.
  • 18. Michael Schar (SUI), Astana, at 1:02
  • 19. Davide Appollonio (ITA), Cervélo TestTeam, at 1:07
  • 20. Christoff Van Heerden (RSA), Mtn Cycling, s.t.
  • 21. Malcolm Elliott (GBR), Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, s.t.
  • 22. Dale Appleby (GBR), Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, s.t.
  • 23. Danilo Wyss (SUI), BMC Racing Team, s.t.
  • 24. Matt Wilson (AUS), Team Type 1, at 2:10
  • 25. Sam Bennett (IRL), Irish National Team, at 2:43
  • 26. Robert Partridge (GBR), Team Halfords, at 2:46
  • 27. Ian Wilkinson (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 28. Roger Hammond (GBR), Cervélo TestTeam, s.t.
  • 29. Gabriel Rasch (NOR), Cervélo TestTeam, s.t.
  • 30. Steven Van Vooren (BEL), An Post Sean Kelly Team, s.t.
  • 31. Mark O’Brien (AUS), Australian National Team, at 2:51
  • 32. Peter Williams (GBR), Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, at 5:38
  • 33. Timothy Roe (AUS), Australian National Team, s.t.
  • 34. Pierpaolo De Negri (ITA), ISD-Neri, at06:20
  • 35. Frantisek Rabon (CZE), Team Columbia-HTC, at 6:43
  • 36. Paul Griffin (IRL), Irish National Team, at 7:27
  • 37. Antonio Cruz (USA), BMC Racing Team, at 8:01
  • 38. Stian Remme (NOR), Joker Bianchi, at 8:23
  • 39. Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
  • 40. Mark Mcnally (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 41. Juan Van Heerden (RSA), Mtn Cycling, s.t.
  • 42. Ian Mcleod (RSA), Mtn Cycling, at 8:35
  • 43. Chris Newton (GBR), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, at 10:06
  • 44. Stuart O’Grady (AUS), Team Saxo Bank, at 13:44
  • 45. Asle Arvesen Kurt (NOR), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 46. Alexander Kristoff (NOR), Joker Bianchi, at 20:50
  • 47. G Sortveit Sondre (NOR), Joker Bianchi, s.t.

GC standings | ( Stage results)

  • 1. Russell Downing (GBR), Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, 14:18:03
  • 2. Petter Nordhaug Lars (NOR), Joker Bianchi, at 0:23
  • 3. Matti Breschel (DEN), Team Saxo Bank, at 0:43
  • 4. Alexander Kolobnev (RUS), Team Saxo Bank, at 0:45
  • 5. Marco Pinotti (ITA), Team Columbia-HTC, at 0:49
  • 6. Mathias Frank (SUI), BMC Racing Team, at 1:03
  • 7. Craig Lewis (USA), Team Columbia-HTC, at 1:05
  • 8. Steven Kruijswijk (NED), Rabobank, at 1:06
  • 9. Denys Kostyuk (UKR), Isd-Neri, s.t.
  • 10. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 11. Karsten Kroon (NED), Team Saxo Bank, s.t.
  • 12. Philip Deignan (IRL), Cervélo Test Team, at 1:08
  • 13. Andrey Grivko (UKR), Isd-Neri, at 1:21
  • 14. Florian Stalder (SUI), BMC Racing Team, at 1:24
  • 15. Kristian House (GBR), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, at 3:17
  • 16. Gabriel Rasch (NOR), Cervélo Test Team, at 3:19
  • 17. Jason Mccartney (USA), Team Saxo Bank, at 3:20
  • 18. Luis Rubiera Jose (ESP), Astana, s.t.
  • 19. Michael Schar (SUI), Astana, at 3:31
  • 20. Christoff Van Heerden (RSA), Mtn Cycling, at 3:36
  • 21. Malcolm Elliott (GBR), Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, s.t.
  • 22. Davide Appollonio (ITA), Cervélo Test Team, s.t.
  • 23. Danilo Wyss (SUI), BMC Racing Team, s.t.
  • 24. Matt Wilson (AUS), Team Type 1, at 4:39
  • 25. Sam Bennett (IRL), Irish National Team, at 5:12
  • 26. Ian Wilkinson (GBR), Team Halfords, at 5:15
  • 27. Steven Van Vooren (BEL), An Post Sean Kelly Team, s.t.
  • 28. Roger Hammond (GBR), Cervélo Test Team, s.t.
  • 29. Robert Partridge (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 30. Mark O’brien (AUS), Australian National Team, at 5:20
  • 31. Timothy Roe (AUS), Australian National Team, at 8:07
  • 32. Frantisek Rabon (CZE), Team Columbia-HTC, at 9:38
  • 33. Antonio Cruz (USA), BMC Racing Team, at 10:30
  • 34. Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Rabobank, at 10:52
  • 35. Mark Mcnally (GBR), Team Halfords, s.t.
  • 36. Juan Van Heerden (RSA), Mtn Cycling, s.t.
  • 37. Stian Remme (NOR), Joker Bianchi, s.t.
  • 38. Ian Mcleod (RSA), Mtn Cycling, at 11:04
  • 39. Chris Newton (GBR), Rapha Condor Cycling Team, at 12:35
  • 40. Pierpaolo De Negri (ITA), Isd-Neri, at 13:01
  • 41. Stuart O’grady (AUS), Team Saxo Bank, at 14:10
  • 42. Dale Appleby (GBR), Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, at 15:41
  • 43. Asle Arvesen Kurt (NOR), Team Saxo Bank, at 16:13
  • 44. Peter Williams (GBR), Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta, at 20:12
  • 45. Paul Griffin (IRL), Irish National Team, at 22:01
  • 46. Alexander Kristoff (NOR), Joker Bianchi, at 23:12
  • 47. G Sortveit Sondre (NOR), Joker Bianchi, at 23:19

FILED UNDER: News / Race Report / Race Results / Road

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