After a year with Continental squad Endura, Russell Downing makes his return to professional cycling at the Tour of Qatar on Sunday.
Qatar will be the second race for the team under their new guise of NetApp-Endura, after starting the season in San Luis. They will also be heading to some of the year’s biggest races; Tirreno-Adriatico, Il Lombardia and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
As a Pro Continental team, they are heavily reliant on invitations. They missed out on a return to the Giro, “I was keen to ride the Giro after riding it two years ago,” Downing tells Cycling News HD. I’ve got good memories and I’ve always thought that the Giro was the nicest and most colourful Tour to ride.
Downing sees the up and coming races in Qatar and Oman as a chance to add a Grand Tour to that list. “We will do everything we can in the early season race and we won’t just go there and roll around,” he tells Cycling News HD. “We’ll go to perform and impress and hopefully we’ll get one.”
The former Sky rider was one of the eight to move when Endura linked-up with German team NetApp, at the end of last year. In 2011 Downing was left what he’d done wrong when Sky decided not to renew his contract, “I was pretty pissed off at the end of Sky and I’d done nothing wrong.
“They didn’t even give me a phone call,” Downing says when asked if they’d given him a reason. With nowhere to go the 34-year-old spoke to, his friend and Endura team manager, Brian Smith who convinced him to join the Scottish outfit.
“There were possibilities of other things happening,” he says of his move. “But I normally have a date when I need to make a decision by and that is what I did. I probably had two more offers after I signed for Endura, but that’s bike racing. I had committed to Endura and had a really good year last year and I’m enjoying my bike riding.”
• For the full interview with Russell Downing read Issue 40 of Cycling News HD. In this week’s issue we review the first races of the year at the Tour Down Under and the Tour de San Luis. We also take an in-depth look at the forthcoming Tour of Qatar, with full start lists and stunning photos. You can also read Lance Armstrong’s interview with Cyclingnews.
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