An interview with Dean Downing, March 30, 2006
Dean Downing is another British cycling export, plying his trade in Europe during 2006 with the newly merged DFL-Cyclingnews.com-Litespeed team, based in Belgium. The brother of British national road champion Russell Downing, 'Deano' has posted the team's first wins of the season and has come into the 2006 season with excellent form. He spoke to Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins after the team's second training camp of the year.
Downing has had a promising start to the 2006 season, scoring wins in the Neerlineder kermesse held in Belgium on March 5, and then posting another win last weekend at the Trofee Van Haspengouw (Aalst-St.-Truiden) interclub event on March 25.
Downing said at the team launch earlier this year that he'd changed his training for the lead-up to the 2006 season; concentrating on training on the road through a British winter, rather than racing on the track (both Downing brothers are highly accomplished track riders). In fact, by mid February, he'd logged 7000km since mid-November, riding around the roads of Sheffield, near his home. At the launch, he told Cyclingnews, "I've done enough training, I want to get racing". Indeed, all those wintery kilometres have certainly paid off as he's given the newly-merged squad an excellent start to the season.
Cyclingnews: The DFL/Cyclingnews.com team is based in Belgium - do you know whereabouts exactly, and do you know anything about the area?
Dean Downing: A small town called Booischot; its about 20 minutes from Leuven where Stella is brewed, so that could be dangerous
CN: Having a quick scan down the list of riders, it's a pretty young team [in fact 'Deano' is the oldest at 31]. Does anyone stand out as a leader that you'll all work for, or will it be left to each individual race?
DD: I think they had to sign some young guys after signing me [laughs]. I think the new director doesn't want there to be an out and out team leader as such, just leave it to individual races. We have quite a few different style races planned this season; the flat Belgium races and the Tour of China, which I hear is a bit hilly, so it'll be hard for a rider to be up there in every one [of those races]. It can sometimes put pressure on a leader if the riders are always looking to them for everything, too.
CN: Once again, you'll be racing on the same team as your brother Russell. Does this work out well for you? [cue heaping praise over brother or "that bastard won't stop following me around ever since we were kids" type acrimony!]
DD: Yeah, he seems to follow me around [laughs]. We have a pretty good understanding of each other in general, but when it comes to racing we take it one step further; there have been a few races in the last couple of seasons in the UK that either Russ or I have won, and we both said afterwards. 'I was just about to attack when you went away', so I suppose we do think alike in that respect. The Lincoln GP last year was the best race we have done together - we just rode as hard as we could for the last two laps, with total trust in each other, I suppose.
CN: You've done a lot racing in Europe - how does it feel now that you're going to be based there?
DD: Well I was based out of Belgium from March 2001 until the end of 2003, so I know the feeling of living away from home. This time will be a little different as I have got to leave my girlfriend Katy behind for a few months at a time. Shame I can't fit her in my bike bag every time I go away.
CN: You and the other British guys at DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed are the latest in an increasing number of Brits making a go of things in Europe - Brad Wiggins, Dave Miller, Roger Hammond, etc...what do you credit this increase to?
DD: I think that cycling has become more popular within the UK over the last few years, with the efforts of the riders mentioned; young guys seem to be following their cycling dreams more over the water, getting the chance to ride in good European teams in France and Belgium. Funds seem to be helping a lot of riders too - the Dave Rayner [Fund] has helped lots of riders and they seem to be giving it a go...you're only young once, hey?
CN: Last winter you raced some Six Day events with Russell, but we didn't see you this year - is there any particular reason for this? Have you turned your back on the track for a while?
DD: Yeah we did the Gent 6 last year but Russ' leg was still injured from his bad crash in the Herald Sun Tour so the dream of getting into the Six Day circuit turned into a bit of a nightmare; on such a small track there is nowhere to hide and we struggled the last two nights. I still love riding on the track because that's kind of where I started, so I don't think I will ever turn my back on it.
CN: When we saw you at the Manchester Revolutions in February you were looking pretty lean and fit. What have you been up to in the off season this year, and do you have trouble returning to form at the beginning of the year?
DD: As I haven't done any track this winter I took the opportunity to have a month off my bike [mid October to mid November] and I had a great time relaxing with friends and family, a few nights out etc. I also put a few kilos on to keep me warm in the winter. So when I started back I was just doing steady training rides with the lads around where I live. I was doing about 15 hours riding per week. At the Revolution I had just got back from a 10 day training camp in Lanzarote where I did a 1000km in what seemed like gale force winds. The sun was shining though so the tan came on a bit.
CN: DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed are going to get invited to some races that are bigger than you would have ridden last year with Recycling.co.uk. Are you feeling confident about stepping up to the next level?
DD: I've done the training I wanted to do this winter; probably a few more kilometres than expected, so I am confident, excited too, to be racing in big Belgium races. All the 1.1's will have the big teams on the start line, so it'll be good to get stuck in at the next level.
CN: On the same subject, are there any particular races you're hoping to ride or looking forward to? And what are your overall aspirations for the season?
DD: The team is looking to get a start in the Tour of Belgium so that will be a biggie for the team, but I would say the Tour of Britain will be our big race this year, along with (for me) the national crit and road champs which I missed last year, when I hit the deck pretty hard.
CN: The British racing scene is rapidly gaining momentum - especially with the resurgence of the Tour of Britain - and DFL is a British sponsor. Will you be having much of a domestic program - e.g. aiming at the Premier Calendar?
DD: The Tour of Britain coming back has made a good impact on cycling in the UK - more sponsors seem to be coming into bike racing, but as I will be based in Belgium I can't see myself coming back for many of the Premier Calendar races.
CN: Finally, is this the year that Deano Downing really hits the big time?
DD: I really hope so. I am always dreaming about winning bike races, so it would be nice to make it come true; the last few years I have been concentrating on both road and track, and maybe now I have had a solid winter on the road, I can step up a gear in the finale and take out a few more victory salutes...maybe I should practice some in training just in case.
For further reading about the DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed team, visit the official site.