Russell Downing has spoken about the pain of completing his first Grand Tour yesterday in Italy.
The 32-year-old became one of the Giro d’Italia’s most talked about racers after a horrifying fall on Friday had him completing the weekend’s stages with damage to his ribs and sternum.
Downing, from Thurcroft, Rotherham, swerved on a descent to avoid a rider with a puncture but in doing so plunged 20 metres down a ravine. After scrambling out, a pedal problem caused another crash and then a puncture led to him changing bikes.
But he managed to complete the stage within the allotted time limit, finish the 242km into ski resort Sestriere on Saturday and then turn in a creditable time-trial in Milan yesterday.
He told The Star: “I knew it would hurt as I was flying through the air. I took the impact on the front, on my sternum.
“The doctor made me get checked out in case I’d broken a rid. Nothing showed up but I’ve been coughing blood up every since. In the time-trial I rode in white gloves - they were red by the end.”
After a stellar career at levels just below the Grand Tours, Downing said it will take a while to believe he’s completed the Giro: “We were at the airport within hours of finishing. It seems strange that I’ve just done one of the toughest races in the world.
“The support I have had back home has been amazing. I can’t thank people enough.”