Briton Russell Downing crowned a great effort by his Sky team-mates to win the 75-kms 2nd stage of the Criterium International around Porto-Vecchio.The 2005 British champion surged in the final stretch to upstage Swiss Michael Albasini (HTC-Columbia) and add a line to his career record, which also includes the Tour of Ireland last year.Overall leader Pierrick Fedrigo (BBox) showed he had great legs by taking third spot to grab a bonus of two seconds. The Frenchman will lead Portugalâ€™s Tiago Machado by 17 seconds and Spainâ€™s Samuel Sanchez by 23 into the final 7.7-kms time trial in the afternoon.
The start was given at 9:21 to 116 riders. Six men parted with the peloton after 3.5 kms. They were Dmitry Fofonov (Astana), Jussi Veikkanen (FDJeux), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) Thierry Hupond (Skil Shimano), Renault Dion (Roubaix Lille Metropole) and Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez (Bretagne-Schuller).
Egoi Martinez was the best placed of the six in 27th place, 2:02 behind Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox).
Their lead grew steadily and reached the minute on the only climb of the day in Pagliaggiolo, on which Dion was first ahead of Martinez and Veikkanen.
Thanks to the break, Pierre Rolland (Bbox) retained the best climberâ€™s polka-dot jersey which will remain on his shoulders as Pagliaggiolo was the last hill on this Criterium International.
Sky shines for Downing
The wind was again rather strong on the course and the average speed in the first hour was 43.3 kph.
Thanks to a great team effort by HTC-Columbia in the final 20 kilometres, the gap fell dramatically and the six were reined in with five kilometres to go. Team Sky also took their share of the chase and they were rewarded in the final stretch when they set former British champion Russell Downing for victory. The Briton upstaged Michael Albasini while Fedrigo was third.
I came on the Criterium to win the second stage and I did it. Thatâ€™s great. The boys worked hard for me in the last 15 kilometres and in the final kilometre I tried to go into the Columbia train. Then I realised it was windy and I went down a gear. It was good.
Belgium’s Gianni Meersman (FDJeux) will be the first to start at 13:46.
Welcome on the third stage of the Criterium International, a 7.7-kms individual time trial around Porto-Vecchio.
Briton Russell Downing (Team Sky) outsprints the bunch to win the 75-kms second stage ahead of Swiss Michael Albasini (Columbia) and race leader Pierrick Fedrigo (BBox).
Under the red flame, the final sprint takes shape and the bunch is still led by Team HTC Columbia.
Only three kilometres left and Team Vacansoleil are the most active at he front of the peloton.