Last year, Russ Downing was denied overall victory at the eleventh hour by the might of Columbia – and it was Italian TT champion Marco Pinotti who pulled on the final leader’s jersey.
You could be forgiven thinking that Downing wouldn’t want to cross the Irish Sea again – but you’d be wrong!
The Pinarello man took stage one in fine style today, beating Saxo stars Kolobnev (a Worlds medallist) and Danish champ Breschel to exorcise last year’s ghosts.
A rumour circulating on the race has it that Downing has been dropped from the GB ‘long’ list for the Worlds next month – someone must have forgotten that he was the nation’s only finisher in Varese last year. Maybe the selectors will have second thoughts when they see this result?
But it’s not a proper stage race unless someone gets Pezzed – our victim on the Emerald Isle is Team Type 1 sprinter, 25 year-old Aldo Ilesic from Ptuj, the oldest city in Slovenia.
PEZ: You’re a sprinter, Aldo – are you flamboyant?
Aldo: On the bike yes, but off it, not so much.
PEZ: How are the results in 2009?
Aldo: I’ve won five criteriums in the USA; the results are all on my website www.aldoinoilosec.com
PEZ: How’s the Slovenian race scene?
Aldo: It’s growing, it gets better each year but we need a Pro Continental team to give riders something to aim for.
PEZ: Gorazd Stangelj used to be the top man in Slovenia.
Aldo: Not any longer, he’s a good rider, but there’s Brajkovic and Spilak to think about, now.
PEZ: Who was your role model sprinter?
Aldo: Petacchi, always Petacchi – I just liked his style.
PEZ: Why are you racing in the US?
Aldo: I got the opportunity to race in the US last year; I liked the criterium racing and decided to stay. I miss European racing though; Type 1 are talking about doing more in Europe next season and I’m looking forward to that, Here, in Ireland you can see that if you’re not racing in Europe regularly then you have no chance of winning. You can do all the five, six, seven hour training rides you want, but if you’re not racing at this level then you can’t be good here.
Aldo recently celebrated a big time NRC win at the Hanes Park Classic in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Just now, I’m super fast and super good in US criteriums, but I don’t have the endurance. I’ve had it in the past – I’ve won 200 K plus stages in the Olympia Tour in Holland – but I don’t have it just now because of the crit racing.
PEZ: How different is the US to Slovenia?
Aldo: The lifestyle, the way people talk, they way they act – everything is different. A big thing is that everything is far away; you have to drive a lot, or take a plane. In Slovenia, everything is on a plate – if you want to ride in the mountains, you just ride there, or if you want to ride on the flat, it’s there too – it’s easy to ride where you want to.
PEZ: What’s the Type 1 goal for the Tour of Ireland?
Aldo: To win a stage or take a jersey; we had no luck with the stage win today but Matt Wilson took the King of the Mountains jersey – he won it here last year, so he knows what’s involved.
Aldo is no stranger to big time sprint wins – he is a stage winner at the prestigious Olympia’s Tour in the Netherlands.
PEZ: How was the weather and the parcours?
Aldo: I’ve heard it rains a lot here, but it was perfect weather today. It was a hard stage, we were surprised by how hard it was – 196 kilometres with 2500 metres of climbing, much more than we expected. There was a split with 40 K to go and the race was contested by a group of about 25.
PEZ: Is this your first battle with Pro Tour guys?
Aldo: For this year, yes, but I’ve ridden against them in the past in Europe.
PEZ: How was your day?
Aldo: Until 160 K it was fine, but I got dropped on the last climb and just rode in. Criteriums don’t prepare you for 196 kilometre stages.
Aldo sprinting to the win in 2008 in the early season Croatian opener, the Porec Trophy.
PEZ: What about the ‘Lance Effect.’
Aldo: Everybody knows him and he pulls in a lot more spectators but I don’t focus on who he is or what he’s doing once we’re racing – I respect all the other riders and we all have a goal in a race.
Aldo: It’s a similar stage, I think an early break will go but Columbia will control it – tomorrow is Cavendish’s last chance to win a stage, he missed the split today.
We’ll be getting Aldo’s take on tomorrow’s stage too – so keep it PEZ’d.