Russ Downing plunges 20 metres into ravine - and gets back on bike to complete Giro stage

Team Sky Yorkshireman determined to finish his debut Grand Tour

by Simon_MacMichael   May 28, 2011  

Russ Downing (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

Russ Downing of Team Sky has started today’s penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia, his maiden grand tour, despite being taken to hospital yesterday following a 20-metre plunge into a ravine on the descent of the Mottarone.

According to the Team Sky website, the 32-year-old went over a crash barrier after a rider ahead of him made a mistake, in an incident reminiscent of the one that left Rabobank rider Pedro Horrillo in a coma during the 2009 Giro and led to his retirement from the sport.

Downing’s crash also comes at a time when rider safety is under close scrutiny following the death of Leopard Trek rider Wouter Weylandt on Stage 3 of this year’s race.

The Team Sky rider lived up to his 'Fonzy' nickname by keeping his cool and somehow managed to finish the stage, crossing the line as the final rider home just inside the time limit, and was then taken to hospital for tests.

He told the Team Sky website: “I was pretty lucky really. There was a Rabobank rider immediately before me who overshot the corner, and that meant that I was catapulted sideways. I hit the barrier and then went straight over it and down about 20 metres into the woods. My bike went even further than me but fortunately I hit a tree, which stopped me falling even further.

“After dusting myself down I managed to scramble up the slope with some help from the fans and get back on my bike, but the fall had broken my shoe plate, which offset my balance, and I crashed into the barrier again about two corners further down the road.

“That completely broke my bike, so I had to wait for a spare, and then 5km later I had to change my shoe before I could sprint back on to the grupetto and then climb the last 28km to the finish.

“I was happy to finish but we’ll have to see how I shape up for tomorrow now. It’s dependant on what the doctors have to say, but I would really like to start,” added the Yorkshireman, whose performance in winning the 2009 Tour of Ireland while with CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta had helped secure him a place in the new Team Sky ahead of its 2010 debut.

With the Gazzetta dello Sport reporting that all 159 riders who finished yesterday’s stage left Verbania this morning on Stage 20, it appears that Downing, eighth on Thursday’s Stage 18, has managed to convince the medics that he is up to today’s 242km ride, which includes a climb of the Colle delle Finestre ahead of a summit finish at Sestriere.

“I’m feeling pretty rough and have given my ribs a fair old crack,” Downing admitted yesterday. “I’m coughing a bit of blood up, which is never a great sign, but I’ll survive. I’ve worked really hard to get here and it would be a shame if I wasn’t able to make it to the finish line now.”

7 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Very glad Fonzies ok. Amazing how casual he is. I'd be in the team car weeping in shock after that. As someone said on the ToC. 'This is cycling: There is no halftime. There are no substitutions....' Meanwhile Rooney's snorting at getting boo'ed on £150k per week. Probably what Fonzie makes in a year. It's a crazy world.

Maybe if we all wrote to Brenda together we could get Fonzie an OBE? He sets an example of GB pluck and perseverance that seems to qualify him.

Yours sincerely

Col. Hubert Gusset (rtd)
Tonbridge Wells
Big Grin

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1051 posts]
28th May 2011 - 17:18

like this
Like (2)

After this I don't think anymore footballing pansies should be paid millions or be given honours for 90 minutes of running around unless they do something turly exceptional. All of these riders are 'ard as nails, ride hours and hours, often in conditions where football would be called off and get very little regcognition outside the world of cycling.

Be sure that the Champion's League final is strewn all over the papers tomorrow but will there be anything about the torture pro cyclists go through, I highly doubt it. Sadly most of the mass media coverage cycling gets is doping related...

Personally, I think pro cycling needs more acknowledgment generally and non-cyclists need the realise that the majority of us are not red-light jumping drug takers, but passionate, pleasant people.


Max888's picture

posted by Max888 [7 posts]
28th May 2011 - 18:58

like this
Like (2)

says it all really, what a man.

Currently going slower than I'd like...

posted by stealth [182 posts]
28th May 2011 - 21:06

like this
Like (2)

Reminds me of Jens "I didn't fall on my face, I didn't fall on my head, today was ok" Voigt

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [584 posts]
29th May 2011 - 11:31

like this
Like (4)

"I’m coughing a bit of blood up, which is never a great sign..." Yes, it is Russ. It shows you're a proper hard man and deserving of our admiration.


posted by Michael5 [121 posts]
29th May 2011 - 17:28

like this
Like (2)

Team Sky living up to its name I see! There are some stages where I think riders should be issued with parachutes. Hope Russ recovers soon.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [279 posts]
30th May 2011 - 20:49

like this
Like (3)

Funny you should mention the amount of money in football and the perception that cycling is the only sport tainted by drugs.

Barcelona fans are very sheepish whenever Dr Fuentes is mentioned for some reason.

posted by farrell [1374 posts]
31st May 2011 - 15:29

like this
Like (2)