PREMIER Calendar leader Russell Downing drew first blood in the Abergavenny Festival weekend when he sprinted to victory in the Grand Prix Town Centre Criterium on Friday evening.

The Pinarello RT rider won from GB Academy ace Ben Swift, while 100 Per Cent ME?s Alex Dowsett took third.

With a fast pace throughout the elite event, it was Brighouse and Stone criterium winner Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello RT) who drove things along in search of another victory, but even he was pulled back and shortly after the race-wining move went.

Downing and Swift attacked shortly after Elliott had been reeled in, and quickly gained on the bunch to ensure a two-up sprint for victory, which Downing won with ease from Swift.

Dowsett took third spot after attacking off the front of the bunch in the closing stages, while Elliott took fourth place ahead of another GB Academy prospect, Jonny Bellis.

?It?s great to get a win, especially with such a strong field,? said Downing afterwards. ?For the first hour it was full on and really fast. I got away with Andy Tennant I think. I looked back and it was really strung out and I said ?keep it going? because there were bodies everywhere and we needed to stay clear.

?When it eventually started to calm down people started to go and there were a few attacks, so I went again,? he explained. ?I didn?t realise it was so close to the end of the race – I thought we had ten minutes to go – but we kept it going.

?Each of us would do one straight and a couple of corners and it was working well. But on the last corner Ben slowed it down a bit, and I got the jump out of the corner and got the gap.

?My legs are starting to come back so I?m happy enough,? he added. ?I just hope I can get a result on Sunday in the Grand Prix.?

Abergavenny International Criterium.-
1 Russell Downing (Pinarello RT) 50km in 1-36-00

2 Ben Swift (Great Britain) same time
3 Alex Dowsett (100 Per Cent ME) at 3sec
4 Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello RT) at 8sec
5 Jonny Bellis (Great Britain)
6 Dean Downing (Rapha Condor-Recycling)
7 Lori Domenico (Katay CT)
8 Andy Tennant (Great Britain)
9 Tom Murray (Pinarello RT)
10 Marcin Bialoblocki (Sports Beans-Wilier) all same time