After securing two early season victories on the continent, Endura Racing returned to Britain and secured their first domestic victory when Russell Downing stormed to victory in the 51st Eddie Soens Memorial at Aintree Racecourse on Saturday.
Jonathan Tiernan-Locke won both the Tour of the Mediterranean and the Tour du Haut Var, but this time in was the turn of Rotherham based 33-year-old Downing to show his talent in the 51st edition of the 30-lap race.
After helping to chase down early breaks, Downing and his Endura Racing team-mates set about going for victory.
Downing himself had a dig mid-way through the race and escaped briefly with Simon Yates (100 Per Cent ME), but they were soon chased down in similar fashion to all of the breaks on the exposed course which was rain-soaked early in the day but was soon bathed in sun.
At one point it looked as if Yates would be in line for the win when four of his team-mates lined themselves up at the front with just a few laps remaining, while Yates sat behind them and waited.
But Endura were having none of it, and they put in a ferocious burst of speed which split the bunch into fragments and left even the strong riders struggling to keep their hopes of victory alive.
Downing proved strongest in the sprint for the finish, and to underline their dominance they completed a 1-2-3 with Scott Thwaites and Jonny McEvoy taking second and third respectively.
“It can’t get any better than that!” said Downing after his victory. “This team is full of winners – we’re hoping to dominate the UK racing calendar, but also we’ve got ambitions for European races too as we’ve proved over the last few weeks.
“It’s fantastic to come back from my two years with Sky and help Endura Racing get off to such a brilliant start.”
Downing praises new team
“Great team effort and we took control a lap and a half out and I was the commander of the train shouting the orders and we did brilliant,” Downing said.
“I think 100% ME came up on the left half way up the back straight and we didn’t panic, we just lifted it a little bit and then ‘Wilks’ took it up in to the corner and was quite a good lead out man. It was a matter of me sprinting to lead out Scott really and if he could come off he could come off but we gapped them and that was it.”
Downing had been under the weather after returning from the Tour of the Med and Haut Var, “I’ve felt really good this week. Last week I’d come back from Med and Haut Var and I had battered it a bit and done too much and with the travelling I was ill. I wasn’t too ill, but I knew I was borderline so I nipped it in the bud early, two days off and had a really good weekend training last weekend and that’s continued and I feel really good.
“I had a bit of work with the osteopath Simeon Hempsall back home and he’s really done some good stuff this week and got everything firing, so I it’s all there now ready for the 2012 season.”
Eddie Soens Memorial 2012
1. Russell Downing (Endura Racing)
2. Scott Thwaites (Endura Racing)
3. Jonny McEvoy (Endura Racing)
Wet start to the Eddie Soens
Off come the rain capes as the action hots up
Russell Downing on the attack
One, two, three for Endura as Russell Downing wins
Russell Downing with team-mates Jonny McEvoy and Scott Thwaites