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Russell Downing – Cult’s New Signing; “I much prefer stage racing and classic racing”

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Russell Downing
Russell Downing. Photo©NFTO

The ride of the Commonwealth Games for me? The fourth place of Russell Downing in the road race – ‘grinta’ is the man’s middle name.

As the World Tour stars headed into the pits, Russ just kept riding through the wind and rain – the man is dogged.

His name featured in a recent press release we received from the Luxembourg/Danish Continental squad Cult, they’re going Pro Continental for 2015 and yes, Mr. Downing is on board.

Time to have another word with the man, whose done it all from madisons to the Giro, from the team pursuit to Flanders, from Linda McCartney to Sky.

That was a rough day for the Games Road Race, Russell.

“It was just typical Scottish weather – it started to spit with a little rain on the start line then just got worse and worse.

“It was a massive wearing down process with Peter Kennaugh playing his game off the front I decide to keep below the radar.

“But it was very hard to move up, there were people ‘popping’ all over the place.

“Jack Bauer attacked then Geraint Thomas went with him and then Scott Thwaites so England had representation in the break.

“I tried to get across but it was late in the day and there wasn’t a lot of commitment left from the others with the three medals up the road.”

I was surprised to see you in the team.

“I was always on the long list, I’d stated that I wanted to ride.

“I knew the course from the Nationals in 2013 and knew it suited me.

“The team was picked at Lincoln GP time and of course I’d crashed and broken my collar bone – but I came back into form after I recovered and won the Stockton Premier.

“It was a bit of a last minute ride though, I think someone was injured or pulled out.”

Russell Downing
Russ gives his all on the last lap at the Commonwealth Games. Photo©Martin Williamson

Team Cult Energy?

“It’s a Luxembourg/Danish squad – Cult is a big Danish sponsor.

“My friend, Martin Mortensen who rides for the team sent me a message asking what I was up to and saying that the team was looking for a UK rider.

“They liked my style of racing, I spoke to Cult and it all came together very quickly.”

What about the biological passport for Pro Conti?

“I was on it for two years with Sky and am still on it.”

You’re going to Europe as the UK scene gets better?

“The UK scene is getting better but Pro Conti status means you get into bigger races.

“I think that despite my injury I still have good performances in me – fourth in the [Commonwealth] Games and 10th in Ride London demonstrate that.

“The opportunity came and I took it – UK crits are great but I much prefer stage racing and classic racing.”

How was NFTO?

“Good but it was a strange year for me with breaking my collarbone, having time out and my brother Deano retiring to go into team management.”

Russell Downing
Russ (r) and brother Deano, in NFTO colours. Photo©Tour Series

Have you many more races to ride, this season?

“I’m more or less finished, just some local hill climbs.”

How much of a winter break do you take?

“I relax during October but still ride the bike, if someone phones and asks if I’m going out for a run then I go out – but I have a mental recharge.

“I maybe have a beer, eat things – wouldn’t normally eat.

“In November I start to ride seriously with more three and four hour runs.

“My training is worked back from my race programme – when I want to be at my best.”

Do you have an idea of your programme, yet?

“Not at the minute, it’s tricky at Pro Conti level because you have to rely on wild cards – but the team are working hard at invites.

“We have a team gathering in December and we’ll know better, then.

“But every day there’s more information coming through about races.”

Do you have a coach – and are you still doing them big miles?

“I’m very friendly with Sean Yates who’s with Jon Sharples at TrainSharp coaching.

“I tap into their ideas, especially when I’m bored – I mean there are chain gangs here to go out with on Tuesdays and Thursdays but sometimes I just fancy doing something different.

“So Jon will organise a different process for me depending on what I’m preparing for. I’m pretty relaxed about the exact nature of my work out when I’m not preparing for a big stage race.

“I do quite a bit behind the scooter, maybe go out and do three hours at 31/32 kph; then an hour at 45 kph behind the scooter then another hour to finish at 31/32 kph – that gives you a good work out.

“I still definitely do the miles – I don’t think there’s a substitute for it, as well as building endurance it helps you feel at one with the bike, become part of it.”

Power meters?

“I never used one ’til I went to Sky and I still have one – but I’m not massively religious about down loading and analysing.

“I mean I’ll have a look at my average watts and maximum – but I tend to be old school but tap in to the data from the meter.”

Russell Downing
Russ takes Stage 5 of the Tour of Wallonia in 2010. Photo©CyclingWeekly

The Russell ‘to do’ list?

“I just want to ride at the highest possible level for as long as possible. I can still do it as my rides in The Games and Ride London against World Tour guys shows.

“I live not far from Ben Swift and train with him – I think my level isn’t a million mile from his.

“I just want to have another solid season – I think I have a few more years in me yet.”

You’ll not like this one – have you started to think about what comes after your race career?

“Definitely, I kinda think about it but then I put it to the back of my mind.

“I have to be full on focused on what I’m doing, I still have massive motivation to train and don’t want to compromise that.

“Deano retired and is doing coaching, you never know, that could be something?

“I think I’ve met enough people in the sport and gained enough respect that as one door closes, another will open – I’m a firm believer in that.

“But remember to write that I’m open to offers!”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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