Russ Downing won today’s fifth and final stage of the Glava Tour of Norway (UCI 2.1) today in Hønefoss, taking the bunch sprint from Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Tosh van der Sande (Lotto-Belisol) with Zak Dempster fourth.
After his win at the Lincoln Grand Prix, Britain’s Russell Downing headed to Norway to tackle the 2.1 stage race with many World Tour teams such as GreenEdge, Sky and Lotto riding. Against such heavyweight opposition, yet again the Endura Racing team acquitted themselves very well in the race, getting riders in breaks and finishing the race with four top 10′s on stages, two by Russell Downing and two also by Zak Dempster.
Downing’s win saw Endura Racing emerge from the race on a positive note after the team’s GC ambitions were undone by a series of crashes and mechanical problems on Thursday’s second stage when Iker Camaño (a stage winner here in 2011), Zak Dempster, Rene Mandri and Downing were effectively removed from overall contention. Over the following days, the team were agitators in many moves with Zak Dempster and Paul Voß spending significant time in the main breaks of the day.
On the final stage, which ran for 172km from Gjøvik to Hønefoss, Paul Voß was part of a six strong move which spent much of the day out in front of a peloton being tightly marshalled by Sky Procycling for race leader Edvald Boasson Hagen. The move was finally reeled in on the finishing circuit with a little more than 20km to go and the stage was set for a bunch kick. Knowing that sitting behind the Sky train was going to prove fatal to their hopes of winning the stage, Zak Dempster shepherded Russ through the final kilometres and delivered him into the perfect position coming out of the final two bends to launch him towards the finishing line and Russ won by a clear margin over Clarke and van der Sande.
Video of the stage win (skip to the 2 minute mark to see action)
An example of just how committed they were to taking the race head on, came on the final stage in a bunch kick of almost fifty riders. Russell Downing takes up the story … “Zak did an amazing job on the leadout. I knew what we needed to do and I didn’t want to sit behind the Sky train. I knew I had to beat them into the last two bends which is what Zak did. He came out of the bend, did another 50 metres and I hit it and that was it.”
That was it indeed. Two riders from Endura Racing took on the Sky train and came out on top. “We were in a great position for the last four or five K, right in there, and Zak did a great couple of K looking after me and he did an amazing job of still finishing fourth. We were on fire.”
The stage was a far cry from the day before with the sun shining and temperatures of 20 degrees making it very good conditions for racing. “Winning this stage means a lot to me. I have had great legs all week and yesterday (9th) felt really good as well. I knew the finish today suited me, it was a hard finish and the boys did well.”
It was the first time Russell has come up against Sky this year and while he wasn’t saying anything, it wasn’t difficult to get the feeling that the win against the team that refused to extend his contract at the end of 2011 was indeed a great feeling.
His victory comes after he finished ninth the day before on a stage which he says must have been on Edvald Boasson-Hagen’s training roads such was the reception Edvald got from the crowds. “There was a monster climb that totally split the bunch and I ended up in a little chasing group with (teammates) Vossy (Paul Voss) and Iker Camano and we were trying to get it back to the front but no-one else wanted to commit to the chase with us.”
“We got caught from behind with a K to go by 20 or 30 guys and I was pretty peeved that we got caught so I lead the sprint out and got ninth on the stage. I knew the legs were good because when I can climb as good as that, I know I am in top shape.”
Overall the race is a great event says Russell. “It’s a really good race with great terrain and big crowds. You can see how this race has grown over the years.”
Russell now stays in Norway for a few days and then heads for Estonia for two 2.1 races for Endura Racing. “We have a few days here to chill and reflect on the win we have had. We have had guys in breaks, top tens and we haven’t just been here making the numbers up. We’ll then head to Estonia and see what we can do there.”
Alex Sans Vega (Sporting Director): Finally on last stage all the good work that the guys have done during the week has been paid back. We have had bad luck especially on the second day where we lost all our chances for the GC. We have kept working very hard every day and today we got the result we deserved!
1 Russell Downing Endura Racing 04:06:36
2 Simon Clarke Orica – GreenEDGE @ same time
3 Tosh Van Der Sande Lotto – Belisol Team @ same time
4 Zakkari Dempster Endura Racing @ same time
5 Raymond Kreder Garmin – Barracuda @ same time
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen Sky Procycling @ same time
7 Tom Van Asbroeck Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator @ same time
8 Kevyn Ista Accent.jobs – Willems Veranda’s @ same time
9 Evaldas Siskevicius La Pomme Marseille @ same time
10 Daniele Colli Team Type 1 – SANOFI @ same time
11 Aitor Galdos Alonso Caja Rural @ same time
12 Baden Cooke Orica – GreenEDGE @ same time
13 René Mandri Endura Racing @ same time
14 Pieter Serry Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator @ same time
15 Michael Olsson Team CykelCity.se @ same time
16 Lars Petter Nordhaug Sky Procycling @ same time
17 Clément Koretzky La Pomme Marseille @ same time
18 Sep Vanmarcke Garmin – Barracuda @ same time
19 Stefan Schumacher Christina Watches-Onfone @ same time
20 Gregory Habeaux Accent.jobs – Willems Veranda’s @ same time
39 Karsten Kroon Team Saxo Bank @ same time
41 Nick Nuyens Team Saxo Bank @ same time
42 Michael Barry Sky Procycling @ same time
46 Iker Camano Ortuzar Endura Racing @ same time
47 Thomas Dekker Garmin – Barracuda @ same time
49 Alessandro Petacchi Lampre – ISD 00:20
53 Alexander Wetterhal Endura Racing @ same time
54 Michael Rasmussen Christina Watches-Onfone @ same time
55 Paul Voss Endura Racing @ same time
56 Andreas Klier Garmin – Barracuda @ same time
68 Alexandre Blain Endura Racing @ 2.49
69 Rob Partridge Endura Racing @ same time
82 Mathew Hayman Sky Procycling @ same time
83 Luke Rowe Sky Procycling @ same time
85 Ben Swift Sky Procycling @ same time