Downing chalks up another Giro stage

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It was a long and dusty day for Rotherham’s Russell Downing and Sheffield’s Adam Blythe yesterday in the Giro d’Italia.

The fifth stage of the race ended in the Roman fortress town of Orvieto but not before several kilometres over chalk roads as the race headed inland towards Friday’s big mountain stage.

Speaking to The Star, Downing, aged 32, riding for Team Sky in his first Grand Tour race, said it was hard work on the dusty roads: “It was very dry; at times I couldn’t see a thing.

“It was good fun even though I was in a big group caught up in a crash before the dirt roads began. It was important to keep round Thomas [Team Sky leader, Lovkvist]. He has done a great job to get in contention.”

Downing, who may challenge for a stage victory later in the race, says working hard for his team is the priority during the opening week of the Giro.

He said: “Everyone does their bit on the team fetching and carrying water bottles, while keeping an eye on any breakaways. It’s another up and down stage tomorrow, so it’s important I keep plenty in my legs.”

Dutchman Pieter Weening has taken over the Giro’s Pink Jersey from Britain’s David Millar after he won the stage into Orvieto.

Downing is currently in 104th position, 12 minutes and 54 seconds behind Weening, while Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Blythe, aged 21, is 193rd 32:41 off the pace.

Race favourite, Spain’s Alberto Contador, is poised to make a move in Friday’s mountain stage as he sits just 30 seconds back.

Today’s sixth stage takes the riders 216km south from Orvieto to Fiuggi.