Life is still on the up for Rotherham cyclist Russell Downing. And it will be for a good few days yet.
Yesterday’s 12.7km uphill time-trial at the Giro d’Italia is a just a taste of things to come until Downing’s first Grand Tour comes to and end in Milan on May 29.
One cycling magazine has estimated that if all the climbs in this year’s race were combined into one big hill it would lead the riders into space.
Downing, who is a specialist sprinter rather than climber, worked hard in the time-trial to finish in 32 minutes and 59 seconds.
However, Spain’s Alberto Contador once again demonstrated his class with a superb ascent from Belluno to Nevegal.
One of only five men to win all three Grand Tours (the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana) Contador put further distance between himself and Italian pair Michele Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali.
He was the only man to go under 29 minutes as he took the stage by 34 seconds from Nibali to give himself a lead of almost over his nearest rivals with just five stages remaining.
Contador will almost surely remain in the leader’s pink jersey for the rest of the Giro.
Today takes the riders from Feltre to Tirano on a route of 230km as the race begins to head west towards the Alps.
Meanwhile in Ireland, Downing’s brother Dean relinquished control of the race lead in the An Post Ras.
After winning the first stage, Dowining, who rides for Rapha Condor Sharp, suffered cramp in a tough stage two and found himself out of the leading pack.
Downing, aged 34, is hoping to win the race’s points title when it finishes on Sunday in the coastal town of Skerries.