Sky’s Russell Downing started his first Amstel Gold Race this morning in Maastricht with some help from Great Britain’s only podium finisher, Malcolm Elliott.
“Malcolm, my former team-mate, was third here [in 1987] and got worked over by the Dutch riders,” Downing told Cycling Weekly. “His advice? He told me last night on the telephone to watch Joop Zoetemelk and I asked, ‘Is he still riding?’ I was joking along with him.
“Then he told me to get to sleep, it was only ten o’clock, but he told me to get into bed.”
Elliott finished third behind Dutchmen Joop Zoetemelk and Steven Rooks in 1987. The 48-year-old continues to race, last year racing in team CandiTV with 31-year-old Downing.
The Amstel Gold covers 257.3 kilometres and 31 sharp climbs before its finish in Valkenburg, up the Cauberg climb. Russian Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) won the race last year ahead of two Dutchmen. Australian Simon Gerrans finished seventh riding for Cervélo TestTeam, but this season races for Sky and will be one of the leaders with Downing.
Downing’s confidence is high for today’s race following his stage win at Critérium International last month. Staying in Maastricht for the last few days, he previewed many of Amstel’s climbs.
“We rode most of the harder climbs at the finish. They are good hard climbs and it will be all about positioning. You have to have the legs to be in the right position and then have luck in the finale.
“It is great to be here. It is Amstel Gold, and it is one of the races that I have always dreamt about racing as a young boy. Now, to be riding them, it is a bit strange, but I am enjoying the moments.”
Downing follows Amstel Gold with the Tour of Romandy in May.
Read about the day Malcolm Elliott was worked over by the Dutch The 1987 Amstel Gold Race from Cycling Weekly’s Archive