This article originally published on BikeRadar
One-time team Sky rider Russell Downing will be back racing on the UK domestic circuit in 2014, riding for a team that's intent on cycling domination: NFTO.
Since the squad was formed at the back end of 2011, NFTO – Not For The Ordinary – has grown from a local trade squad offering youngsters a chance to ride competitively to capturing high calibre riders such as Russell Downing, who rode for NetApp-Endura in 2013, his brother Dean from Madison-Genesis, and Adam Blythe, picked from BMC Racing.
It's an indication surely, that the team means business.
Last week, most of the squad gathered at The Shed bike shop near Hereford – which also doubles as the service course – for the dreaded pre-season ramp fitness tests. BikeRadar went along to watch the torture, and between sessions, we saw 35-year-old Downing's brand new Swift Ultravox TI being built up.
It's an impressive, WorldTour-level ensemble with a custom paint job. The 11-speed Shimano Dura-Ace handles the braking and transmission so there'll be no problems on that front.
The riders are allowed to pick their choice of finishing kit, hence the mix 'n' match approach to stem, bar and saddle on Downing's Swift.
There's some relative exotica in there too, such at the cultish deep-section ENVE tubulars rolling on pro-issue Continental tyres and a Stages Power Meter left crank.
But it’s the artwork that sets the bike apart. There a great big nod to Downing's status at National Criterium Champ and it constantly references the new squad.
BikeRadar is indebted to Larry Hickmott at VeloUK for the great photos – they really are worth a look.