Downing helps Sky team surge

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Rotherham’s Russell Downing has shown the quality that earned him his first Grand Tour ride with an excellent weekend at the Giro d’Italia.

On Saturday’s 217km stage along the west coast of Italy from Sapri to Tropea, Downing finished 13th in a group five seconds behind stage winner Oscar Gatto of Italy and second placed Alberto Contador of Spain. It was a solid day’s work by the 32-year-old Team Sky rider from Thurcroft. He was part of a strong finish by Sky, who had three men in the first group home including team leader Thomas Lovkvist.

Contador went one better yesterday with a scintillating ride up Mount Etna. The 2008 Giro champion, who is one of only five men to win all three Grand Tours (Italy, France and Spain), surged away during the day’s final climb to take the overall lead.

The climb up Etna was tough for both Downing and Blythe. The pair finished in a group more than 26 minutes after Contador.