Russell Downing in the footsteps of Basso, Di Luca and Baguet

DFL-Cyclingnews captain Russell Downing has followed in the footsteps of Ivan Basso, Danilo Di Luca and Serge Baguet by winning the tough Triptyque Ardennais race in Belgium last weekend. The three day, four stage race is considered one of the hardest stage races in Belgium, with the course going over many of the roads used in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Although it is not UCI ranked, the race has an illustrious past winners list.

Team performance director Gilbert de Weert said that the game plan was simple, but perfectly executed: "We made sure that we got a man in all the breaks and most importantly rode as a team throughout the event. That was our big strength."

New Zealander Jeremy Vennell was the rider making it into the break on the moderately hilly stage 1, looping 151 km to and from Sprimont, taking 8th on the line. Downing, however, made sure he was at the front of the chasing group to claim 9th on the day, just 0'12 back on the winner Hans Bloks (Team Löwik). Downing continued to ride strongly on the second stage where a third place over the tough course between Theux and Polleur pushed him to fourth overall in the general classification. Ahead of him in the race lay Dries Devenyns (Beveren 2000), winner of the recent Tour of Brittany. Behind Downing, the team had Bernie Sulzberger and Alex Coutts in 12th and 23rd respectively.

Sunday morning saw a 12.5 km time trial in Soumagne held in bad weather conditions, with Devenyns just pipping Downing for the win and setting things up for an interesting battle in the afternoon's final stage. The final stage was classic Ardennes racing, including the tough climbs of the Cote de Chambralles and La Redoute. The weather conditions had worsened, with thunder, lightning and hail from start to finish. Beveren 2000 and DFL-Cyclingnews battled each other throughout the stage, and when Devenyns' teammates were all gone, Downing managed to get across to a small breakaway to finish fourth in the stage and take the overall win ahead of Thomas Rabou (Marco Polo) and Devenyns.

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