Russell Downing’s Giro – Job Done on Stage 10

Today, May 17, was one of the few proper sprint stages in this year’s Giro and for Team Sky’s Russell Downing, his job was to lead out Davide Appollonio.

In contrast to the epic days before, stage 10 could have been quite a simple stage for Russell had it not been for a head cold he picked up the night before. “The legs feel really good but the head feels like its in a vice“ he explained from the team bus. “A few guys have had head colds throughout the Giro and so its floating round the team“ Russell added.

Hence, instead of chilling in the wheels and waiting for the almighty rush at the end, Russell spent stage ten going back and forwards to the team car to see if the doctor could stop his head from pounding. The answer was no so it was an uncomfortable cruise along the coast to the finish, where with 10k to go, Team Sky mustered their forces behind their young Italian sprinter, Davide Appollonio.

As the kilometres counted down, the speed got higher and higher and the different trains from Sky, HTC Columbia and others were doing their best to out muscle the other as they came into the finale. Russell explained it was a lumpy last few k and for those who had to stick their nose into the wind, especially so.

Better him though than Davide who was going to need every ounce of energy to take on his countryman Petacchi or Britain’s Mark Cavendish.

It was, says, Rus, pretty hectic in the finale. “I was Appo’s last man and we got swamped with probably about 2k to go so I took Appo right and up to 7th or 8th spot and dropped him on Petacchi’s wheel which wasn’t a bad wheel for him to have a k from the finish. That was my job done.”

“The speed in the sprints in this race is a lot quicker than others. If you’re not in the mix at the front, you’re not there period because you can’t be moving up at the last minute at this speed. You have got to be organised and that’s what we’re doing looking after Davide who is sprinting well. I’m the fastest guy behind Davide, so its nice to be able to be the last man for him.”

After that strong work in the closing kilometres to bring the 21-year-old to the head of affairs, Appollonio then jumped onto the wheel of Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) only to be squeezed towards the barriers by stage six winner Francisco Ventoso (Movistar).  The Team Sky rider finished 5th but the team feel he isn’t far away from a stage win.

In the peloton the morning of the stage, were two riders from South Yorkshire, Adam Blythe and Russell Downing but by the end, only one, Downing, remained as Adam had retired from the race. Russell wasn’t aware of any problems as Adam had seemed fine that morning but later in the stage, one of Adam‘s teammates told Russell of Adam‘s retirement. “Looks like I won’t be having a brew with him in the morning“ Russell added!

Going back over the days before the sprint stage, Russell said the rest day was very restful! He, and the team did not get to their hotel until one in the morning after the big mountain stage and it was perhaps that which tipped Russell over the edge when it comes to becoming vulnerable to colds and such like.

Five and half hours on the bike and then a bus ride, restaurant for food, flight and more travel to the hotel. “It was pretty epic” says Russell.

He went on to explain that aside from an hour on the trainer, most of the day was spent in bed which is not surprising when you consider the day he had in the mountains on stage 9. There is this term for the gruppetto of ‘laughing group’ but there was only grimacing that day.

Being a mountain stage, Russell was on ‘water carrier duty’ and it got to a stage in the race when after going back for bottles and then delivering them to the riders, he was in his words, ‘cooked’. “I had to hang on in there after that and then at the top of a climb, I hooked up with Cav and Renshaw and we all worked right the way through to the finish. It was a pretty hard day!“

This was no normal gruppetto though but one of half a dozen or so riders racing though and off to stay inside the time limit into the wind and up mountains and to do that, the riders including Russell had to dig deep. They managed to make it though but others such as Robbie McEwen or Graeme Brown did not. “It was no laughing on Mount Etna“ says Russell!

In contrast to that, the gruppetto on a previous mountain stage had been quite easy. What tomorrow brings for Russell he isn’t quite sure of except it’s going to be hard. The stage is rolling and he knows that with the head cold he has, staying in the race is going be made that much harder. Fingers crossed he gets through the stage and shakes off the bugs weighing him down.

Related Links:

Giro: Speed Uncomfortable in Grand Tour

Giro: Russell Downing’s Tour of Italy 3 Days In

Giro News: Russell Downing Ready to Rock!

Giro: Downing’s First Grand Tour

Mark Cavendish Wins Stage

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