Giro: Russell Downing’s Tour of Italy

Three days into the Tour of Italy and stage 3 was a particularly sombre one for the peloton after the death of Leopard-Trek professional, Wouter Weylandt of Belgium. His death, after a crash on a descent, highlights the dangers in a sport where thankfully such occurrences are rare.

VeloUK spoke to Team Sky’s Russell Downing who is three days into his first Grand Tour and he says that the mood on the team bus was a very sad one when they heard the news. “It was pretty shocking” Russell said before adding that his thoughts and that of all the riders go out to Wouter’s family.

The last time we spoke to Russell, he’d had a ‘mare of a day on stage 1, the Team Time Trial and things haven’t been so great on stages 2 or 3. Everyone needs a little luck in races but lady luck seems to have deserted the Rotherham rider. On stage 2, Russell was on lead out duty for Davide Appollonio but the two of them became separated in the closing stages of the race.

“I think the peloton got squashed at one point and I went one way and Appollonio went another and we didn’t manage to find each other after that. Sometimes, if you get squashed, you can get back and find your ‘train’ but this time it didn’t happen, so I stayed in the line until a k to go before sitting up.”

The train Russell talks of is moving along at 65k (40mph) an hour and as well as the chaos of riders going back and forward shoulder to shoulder, there are many other things that a rider has to deal with in that rush to the line. Team Sky’s Sean Yates explained on the team website, “You have to remember that this is Davide’s first full stage of his first Grand Tour and it was pretty hectic out there. With a little bit more experience and patience, I’m sure we’ll see even better results in the future.”

For Russell though, the longest stage went okay and he says his legs were in good shape after the 244 kilometres. “It felt a lot quicker than the training day in Yorkshire“ he explained, referring to the 246 kilometres he‘d done the week before when at home.

If he didn’t have much luck on stage 1 or 2, stage 3 wasn’t much better with mechanicals this time causing him problems. “Today was a pretty hectic stage, especially on the long climb with 40k to go or so. It was pretty hectic and nervous on there with everyone jostling for position”.

For Russell, he had to first deal with a mechanical at the bottom of the climb. “I went to the car and they put a new battery in the gears and I got back to the group and went over the top with the peloton only to have another mechanical on the next climb. Pete did a good job to take me to the front at the bottom of the climb and I was in a good position and feeling pretty comfortable before I had to go back to the car again and just as I was about to take the spare bike,  the problem righted itself. It wasn’t my day really!”

Mechanicals are one thing but when the legs feel good, it is just that bit more frustrating and Russell explained that he was feeling comfortable on the climbs. Asked about the crashes of which there appeared to be quite a few, Russell replied, “there were crashes on the climb going up the hill and again on the downhill. I think everyone wanted to be at the front but there is only so much road and everyone wants to be on it so there’s a lot of jostling going on.”

After three days of bad luck, he’s hoping for a little good luck to go his way in the coming days and after the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt, stage 4 may be a little less chaotic than stage 3 was today. Lets certainly pray that it is and lest we forget… RIP Wouter Weylandts.

Related Links

Russell Downing Prepares for his first Grand Tour

A tough start in Russell’s First Grand Tour

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