After a month away from the Premier Calendar series, the riders reconvene in the north-east for the 106 miles of the Beaumont Trophy on Sunday (June 15).
This challenging rural route will sort out the field and show who has been making the best of the month of May and hopefully provide the answer to the following question: is there a single rider in the UK at the moment capable of beating Russell Downing?
With four out of five Premier Calendar races already in the bag ? brother Dean won the other one ? Russell looks, in football manager-speak, ?different class? from the rest of the bunch.
Plowman Craven and Rapha may well have bigger fish to fry ? the Tour of Britain topping their list of priorities ? but the fact that not one single rider from either of these big and talented teams can cross the line in front of Downing has got to hurt. Managers John Herety (Rapha-Condor-Recycling) and Garry Beckett (Plowman Craven) must be wondering what they have to do to stop the Yorkshireman from making their guys look like also-rans.
This could be their big chance. Downing broke two bones in his hand at the Rogaland Grand Prix in Norway which might ? just might ? slow him up a bit. Don?t bank on it, though.
FIVE IN A ROW?
When Russell Downing won the Lincoln Grand Prix last month it was the first time since Britain?s race series was rebranded as the Premier Calendar in 1993 that a rider has won four rounds in a row.
Downing?s remarkable run of dominance started when he won the Girvan stage race and the Tour of the Reservoir on consecutive weekends. He then won two stages and the overall at the Chas Messenger in early May before pipping his brother, Dean, at the Lincoln.
Now, despite crashing in Norway, he is among the favourites again and, having won last year, will fancy his chances. If he were to win another round this season it would mean he?d have won half of the Premier Calendar races on offer.
Sunday, June 15
Round six of the 2008 Premier Calendar series
Start 11.30am, Stamfordham Village Green, Northumberland
Distance 170km (106 miles)
2007 Russell Downing (Healthnet-Maxxis)
2006 Evan Oliphant (Recycling)
2005 Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello)
2004 Mark Wordsworth (Doncaster Wheelers)
2003 Graham McGarrity (Scotoil RT)
2002 Richard Sutcliffe (York Cycleworks)
MOST PROLIFIC WINNER
Ray Wetherall (?66, ?67, ?68, ?71, ?72)
1. Russell Downing (Health Net-Maxxis)
2. Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello)
3. Chris Newton (Recycling.co.uk)
|HOW I WON|
By 2007 champion Russell Downing
?How did I win? Just!
?It?s a good race ? hard and fast all day ? and very well run. A lot of riders lost their legs on the climb on the finishing circuit, and that?s where the break went, with me, Chris [Newton], Malcolm [Elliott] and Dean [Downing].
?At the finish, Chris was the first to go, and at about 150 metres I got baulked by a marshall, Malcolm came past me on the right, I managed to get back on top of my gear and went up the inside. It was very close.
?Last year I was riding solo so it will be pretty different this time having a team with me.?
By organiser Peter Harrison of Gosforth Road Club
?We have got the biggest prize list in the UK for elite riders: £6,020 in cash, including £1,000 for the winner. Northern Rock sponsor the whole weekend of events and they do the best branding in the country, with their experience of rugby and football sponsorship.
?Newton and House will be racing abroad, but Rapha will have Dean Downing and Tom Diggle in their squad. It looks like it will be the Big Three teams ? Rapha, Plowmans and Pinarello ? but there is also Southam and Hayles from Halfords, and Kit Gilham from Kinesis.?
?It is a very safe course with hardly any traffic ? the riders will be lucky to see three dogs and a sheep! ? but we will get plenty of spectators, especially in the village and on the climb. That is the advantage we have in the north-east with such low levels of traffic.?
|BATTLE OF THE BROTHERS|
You know how it is, when your bruv has a firm hold of the only controller for the Nintendo, and he keeps saying ?yeah, in a minute? every time you point out it?s your turn and he has been hogging it all evening.
Russell has been playing Super Mario for so long, he?s inhabiting a different universe to Dean, who is struggling to move off Level Two.
Lincoln was mighty close, though, as Deano plumped for the left-hand gutter and Russ surged up the right to take the plaudits.
Now Russ has a repetitive strain injury in his wrist and might need a little lie down. Come on, Deano. Jump off the sofa and get a grip on the nunchuck, as it were.
Score so far
Russell 4.5 Dean 1.5
It is Pinarello all the way so far, mostly thanks to Russell Downing?s exertions.
Rapha are still hanging in there, but Plowman?s are well adrift and, with smaller outfits like Kinesis and Corley Cycles snapping at their heels, are in danger of slipping off the leader board altogether. Rapha have a seven-man squad over in Canada at the Tour de Beauce, so they will be looking for Dean Downing to keep the home fires burning.
1. Pinarello 55pts
2. Rapha-Condor-Recycling 32pts
3. Plowman Craven 11pts
PREMIER CALENDAR STANDINGS
1. Russell Downing (Pinarello) 650pts
2. Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor-Recycling) 454pts
3. Evan Oliphant (Plowman Craven) 386.5pts
4. Simon Richardson (Plowman Craven) 363pts
5. Rob Partridge (Rapha-Condor-Recycling) 269pts
6. Matthew Higgins (Corley Cycles) 269pts
7. Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek) 219pts
8. Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Recyling) 205pts
9. Rob Hayles (Halfords Bikehut) 187pts
10. Marcin Bialoblocki (Sports Beans) 153pts
July 6 Tour of Blackpool
August 3 East Yorkshire Classic, Beverly
August 10 Tour of Pendle, Lancashire
September 21 Richmond Grand Prix, North Yorkshire