Russell Downing fought terrible weather, the 25% gradient of St Patrick’s Hill and some of the best ProTour riders in cycling to win the Tour of Ireland on Sunday.

Downing started the race with 22 riders within 26 seconds in the overall standings. Saxo Bank, Astana and Cervelo tried to topple him by attacking throughout the stage but he and his Candi TV team-mates kept everything under control and then Downing went on the attack himself in the final kilometres.

The first climb of St Patrick’s Hill and other nasty climbs had already smashed the bunch and left seven riders up front. Downing chased down attacks by Matti Breschel and Alexander Kolobnev (Saxo Bank), then jumped across to Lars Petter Nordhaug (Joker).

Downing dragged the Norwegian to the finish and was happy to give him the stage victory while he celebrated winning overall.

Last year he lost the race on the same tough finishing circuit but came back stronger this year and proved he was a deserved winner.

He skidded to a halt after the finish and then hugged his brother Dean and team-mate Graham Briggs. In emotional scenes, team manager Phil Griffiths lifted him in the air and team-mate Malcolm Elliott was in tears. It was a special birthday present for Downing, with the best present hopefully the chance to ride in Europe.

“Saxo Bank were on fire, attacking one and two but I felt so strong and went after them all,” Downing explained with pride.

“This definitely makes up for losing last year. The odds were stacked up against me but my legs were amazing, thank God. Last year proves I was up there but there was one too many attack. This year I had it under control. The weather played into my hands. I like racing in this stuff.”

Downing finished 23 seconds ahead of Nordhaug. Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) was third at 43 seconds, with his team mate Alexander Kolobnev fourth at 45 seconds.

Final General Classification

1. Russell Downing (GBr) Candi TV – Marshalls Pasta 14-18-03
2. Lars Nordhaug (Nor) TMB Joker Bianchi at 23secs
3. Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank at 43secs
4. Alexander Kolobnev (Rus) Team Saxo Bank at 45secs
5. Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team Columbia – HTC at 49secs
6. Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team at 1-03
7. Craig Lewis (USA) Team Columbia – HTC at 1-05
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Continental at 1-06
9. Denys Kostyuk (Ukr) ISD – Neri same time
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank same time

RELATED LINKS

Tour of Ireland 2009 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Cavendish takes second stage in Ireland

Downing: “It was perfect”

Downing beats big guns in opening stage

  • paul black

    A great ride by Russell Downing In Ireland. Its about time we saw him taking on the protour riders. Hes a class act and would be an asset in any worlds team as wellas a rock soild performer for the new sky team. Good Luck to him he deserves a step up!

  • Martin Hall

    I was stood on St Paddy’s Hill with my wife and 2 kids for 90 minutes before the riders arrived. the rain was torrential and we were dripping wet. Everyone’s main objective, including us, was to see Lance, no question. I know it’s a race and not a “Lance Parade” but he made himself no friends in Cork on Sunday.

    Credit to Don Fonzy though….

  • myles mc corry

    When I got up to drive to the stage start in was raining. When I arrived to Bantry on the Atlantic coast, for the start of stage 3 and the final leg of the 2009 Tour of Ireland -it was raining. And yes, as the riders got out of the campervans and looked at the black skies with fear- it was pouring.
    I did all I had to as quickly as me shutter would allow. The Australian national team got their BikePure pack and I discussed the merits of a drug free peloton with two riders who cared more about the temperature of cat poo, than the bio passport program- in the rain. Handed out a few packets of moral (fruit pastels) to friendly riders and ran.
    The race headed off into hair dryer side winds and by the first climb, a front group of 58 had moved clear by simply being stronger than the other 58. No attack, no increase in speed, just attrition. ‘Hard roads’: The west Cork peninsula is relentless up and down, hard lefts. Holes that would eat a Zipp in one gulp and hedges that only hide sea gales intermittently. With today’s rain, the bunch looked collectively sad.
    I left them at Clonakilty and headed off to Cork for the best bit of cycling spectatorship in the UK: St. Patrick’s hill. 408meters of an incline that starts steep, before it increases and finally finishes with a vertical wall. The UK Halfords team were up beat and talked about a 23 sprocket being enough. Saxo bank who were looking for the win went for 25’s and the smart money was running with 27tooth on Roger Hammonds Cervelo.

    I joined 5,000 other fans in the finishing km , just as the sun came out. Irish cancer volunteers walked up and down the barriers handing out free yellow chalk for Lance’s little fans to decorate the road. The hill was covered by enthusiastic fans with such gems as ‘come on lance my hero’ -‘Go Russell”,’ Lance-pants’ and my personal favourite ‘I’m on day release ‘
    By the time the peloton arrived into the city after 135 k. the rain has begun again and the early break of Stuart O Grady and Jay Thompson (Stage 1 breakaway hero) had been swept up on the run in to the city.
    For the finishing circuits around the streets, hills and houses; the heavens emptied with such force that I gave up trying to edge into an neighbouring umbrella. Showers became tropical. The yellow jersey appeared around the corner flanked by last year’s winner Marco Pinotti and Saxo’s Matt Breshel. He was the biggest danger to Downing and attacked with the determination of a 2 year old facing a sweet bag. I couldn’t ID the rest of the riders in the downpour, but they were wet.
    The 5 deep fans behind the barriers chanted for Lance but he did not appear. Neither did most of the field. The rain and the fear of the hill made the second group on the road pack at the feed. Only 50 riders hit the hill behind the yellow jersey to a cup final last minute goal cheer. The roar was tremendous. I put down my camera and joined in. 10 riders moved clear with all the top five contenders and the rain fell harder. No piece of dry tee shirt could be sourced to dry my lens but the moral was high.
    Could little Russell Downing take the win? On his 31st birthday, Could the little English man who rides for the English continental team CandidTV/Marshalls Pasta beat some of the worlds top talent. The attacks went left and right from the leading group and little Downing, alone, isolated countered each one, like a giant.
    As they climbed the hill on the second lap there were just seven left and the conditions were worsening. The race organisers cancelled the third ascent and began building an arc. As the bell rang out tension rumbled with the thunder in the sky. Downing had to finish clear of as there were ten seconds bonus for the win and we all ran to the line to cheer. Wit six k to go downing decided to win. As he countered Karston Kroon he just kept on going with last years top ten rider Lars Petter Nordhaug (Joker). As Kroon cracked and Pinotti looked broken and finished: Downing sailed off- back onto the English squad for the worlds and to the biggest win of his life. He gave the win to Lars and road hopefully to a new level. The crowds on the hill came from the 4 corners of the world to see-to-see Lance. The masses flew, drove and biked their way in the rain to see Cav hit full throttle. Neither made it up the climb but none left disappointed. All cheered for little Downing, a wee biker with the soul and determination of ten men. Top marks.