The British are coming!
In 2005, Russell Downing scored the biggest win of his career, winning the British road championship. With his new stripes on his back, the then 28 year-old Downing, who had sacrificed for almost a decade on a variety of teams, was ready for the big-time contracts to roll in. However, the ProTour teams did not beat a path to his door. Now with DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed, he is showing off his national champion strip well, winning races and looking for that break. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski sat down with Downing at the Tour de Beauce, where he won the fifth stage and was finalising his preparation for his British championship defence.
Russell Downing has had many ups and downs during his career. The downs came with multiple missed opportunities on professional teams that went under. "I've been pro before with Linda McCartney - rode in big races so I know what it is like," he told Cyclingnews. "I've had a few mishaps and bad luck with teams like iTeamNova that went under. That has set me back a few, but I moved on and carried on winning most years."
And an up (a really big UP) came last year when he won his national title. "[Wearing the jersey] has been good," said Downing. "A lot of hard work paid off during the last year. I had a really good season last year, but to win national's was even better. When I won that, the good race to do after that was the Tour of Britain. Wearing the jersey there felt pretty good."
Surprisingly, his new jersey, combined with continued strong performances, did not lead to big team offers. And after racing for teams mostly in Great Britain, Downing signed with a Continental-level development team, DFL-Cyclingnews-Litespeed, that would operate in both the UK and Belgium, with the riders Anglo and Australian and the management Belgian. The team would help Downing step up further by racing more continental races with higher UCI ratings. [Cyclingnews.com is of course a sponsor of the team - Ed.]
While living in a house with nine riders after racing professionally for the better part of a decade and winning the elite championship of your country is not what Downing had in mind, he recognizes that this team is a better way for him to display his talents. "That's the thing, it's fine when you are 19 or 20," he said, "but when you are getting on a bit like me... I've been making sacrifices for years. Last year was MG-X Power-Recycling.co.uk, a Continental team. This year is the same level but much more in Europe, so a few more harder races which is good. That is definitely why I left the team, to do some bigger races.
Click here for the full interview.