Well-earned rest for saddle sore Downing

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If ever a man needed a rest day then it is Rotherham cyclist Russell Downing after a brutal weekend in the saddle at the Giro d’Italia.

And today he gets his wish with the Giro taking a breather today before six more stages, with the race ending in Milan on May 29.

Downing has battled through three consecutive days in the mountains, which included yesterday’s 6,000 metres worth of climbing over eight hours of action.

He needs a day off to refuel his body but also comprehend his achievement.

At the start of the race the 32-year-old, in his first Grand Tour, was relatively unknown to the elite continental riders – not any more.

Downing has earned their respect by getting over some of Europe’s biggest mountains to head into the Giro’s final week full of confidence.

He said: “That (yesterday) was the toughest day of all. It was 6,000m of climbing and I burned up 7,000 calories. It was the longest I have ever raced for.

“Now there’s a rest day so hopefully the chef makes a nice a pizza and I can have a glass of red wine.

“I think people are looking at me differently. Some of the riders are saying ‘hi Downing’ as we’re going along.

“The race is so hard that everyone who is still in it after 15 stages has got some talent.”

Not to be outdone Russell’s brother Dean Downing benefited from a strong team lead-out to scoop the first stage of the An Post Rás yesterday in Ireland. The 34-year-old edged out young Irish rider Sam Bennett plus the rest of the main to take the stage from Dunboyne to Portumna.