Cycling: Downing overhauls Cummings to capture national title

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The Independent Online

Russell Downing won the British road race championship yesterday with a well-timed surge to the line at Helmsley to edge out the Olympic silver medallist Steve Cummings.

Russell Downing won the British road race championship yesterday with a well-timed surge to the line at Helmsley to edge out the Olympic silver medallist Steve Cummings.

The defending champion, Roger Hammond, this year competing for Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel team, finished well down the field after missing out on the race-winning break.

Yanto Barker claimed the bronze medal in a photo-finish from Downing's team-mate Chris Newton.

Downing came third in the championship seven years ago but the national jersey had eluded him until yesterday. "I've wanted this for so long," said Downing, who will compete in the Tour of Britain in August. "To ride that with the national jersey will be amazing."

Downing was the beneficiary of some astute work from his team. Although the rolling hills of north Yorkshire meant there was never any shortage of attacks, there was always at least two recycling.co.uk riders in any break.

An 18-rider attack set the pace over the first part of the 128-mile course but Downing, Cummings and Newton were in a four-man break which was able to bridge the gap, establishing a lead group in which both of the big British-based teams - recycling and DFL - were well represented.

That meant a difficult day for Hammond, the most accomplished rider in the field, but with no team-mates to hand, he had to cajole the peloton into pursuing the leaders and found few willing helpers.

The decisive move came when Cummings attacked on the climb out of Stonegrave on the final lap of the second circuit and was joined by Downing. Both men were suffering from cramp but were able to establish enough momentum to take them 34 seconds clear with three miles to go.

Downing is the faster rider over short distances so Cummings - who won silver in the team pursuit at the Athens Olympics and gold in the same event at this year's World Championships - attacked again. However, the Yorkshireman stuck to his wheel and as the pair passed through the gates of Duncombe Park, it was Downing who led over the final 200 yards.

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