Question Time: Dean Downing of Rapha Condor Sharp

Larry Hickmott writes … having been going through the archives of national series tables by Jim Hendry, a name that crops up in both the Premier Calendar and the Elite Circuit Series tables is one of South Yorkshire’s finest ever cyclists, Dean Downing.

Dean is in his fifth season for the men in black and is a founder member of this very successful squad having joined up with manager John Herety in 2007. Asked what is special about the team, Deano replies “for me it is all about how its run, from the sponsors involvement to the way the manager John Herety treats his riders. All the riders get on well on and off the bike as well”.

Looking back at the winter which started atrociously for the whole country, Dean says “December was a nightmare for me with all the snow we had. I was getting a bit paranoid about my training. I hate the turbo, so I was doing a bit of MTB and gym work. But January started off really good. I went over to Lanzarote with Andy Cook Cycling as a guest rider and got 10 days of sunshine in my legs. After that, the weather was pretty good at home too, so I managed 50 hours in two weeks here.”

His first race was in Lancashire, the Clayton Velo, which was won in 2010 by his teammate Dan Craven, the bearded one! The race is a handicap road race and Dean explains it was a hard workout that one. “We only had eleven riders in the Scratch group and I got the win, well half a win (a tie with Tom Murray) as John said! But the legs were good but so were Minty’s (Tom Murray) and Wilko’s (Ian Wilkinson) too.”

Asked can you train and be fully ready to race or does he need a diet of races to be race fit, Dean replied, “I don’t think you can train and be fully race fit for your first races, no. You can do all the intervals, sprints etc in training and you can try and play out the racing when you are out with the lads on the chain gang, but in your first few races, you are getting back into race mode and it does normally take a while to get into the swing of things.”

“Racing always sharpens you up for the efforts you have to make within a race, but then when we get to the big months of the season, May and June, we are all racing so much its nice to go out for a bike ride.”

In 2010, a UCI stage race in Taiwan was a happy hunting ground for Deano. This year though the organisers changed the route for a really hilly one. “Yeah, Taiwan was a little bit hillier this year. I think it had three mountain top finishes and was ten days long, not seven.”

“We did the flat stage where I came 3rd last year and this year I was 2nd. I was disappointed as the boys gave me a great leadout but it was just an uphill drag race to the line, the last 200m and I lost.”

“We had a good start to the Tour in the crit with 3rd and 4th ( Deano Windsor, the Duke). After so much climbing, my hips and lower back took a bit of a battering so, thanks to Jimmy McC for stretching me out and I managed to get through the tour; just.”

Laughing, Deano admits he was around third from last on the overall but says the highlight was just finishing the Tour. “Shame I had to ride up a 15km  Mountain, on my own, in thick fog to finish in the middle of nowhere. The Taipei crit was a better finish last year that’s for sure!”

Goals for 2011?
“2010 was all about the Crits. There is so much exposure for the team sponsors with the Tour Series being on TV and some of the BC Crits on TV, that it would be crazy for me not to target those. But I will still be doing the long races too, a few Prems and maybe even a stage race here and there. But if I had one goal for 2011 it has to be Tour Series Team champions. Oh and the Lincoln GP of course..!”

My final question was to ask how much of his success is down to the famous South Yorkshire Chain Gang! “The South Yorkshire chain gang is getting quite a reputation although it always has had a good rep. We have a chaingang on a Tuesday and a Saturday afternoon every week.”

“Now we can also go out on a Tuesday and Thursday evening now the clocks have gone forward. But you get a lot of riders on them; myself, Russ (Team Sky Professional), Briggsy, Tanner, Dawson, Swift (sometimes) even Chris Walker has started coming back out recently and you get all the local guys who love to rip it up. It becomes a race in the spring and summer. It’s great for training but its also great to see the lads and have a good chat about the weekends races etc.”

Thanks to Dean for taking the time to be VeloUK’ first interviewee and good luck for 2011!

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