Review: Dean Downing’s Rapha Years


One of the country’s best ever professionals, Dean Downing, looks back at six years wearing black for the same sponsors on the even of a new season with a new team

Dean Downing’s Rapha Years Through a Lens

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Dean writes on his website … Six years is a long time in anyone’s life, and the last 6 years of mine have been spent racing around on my Condor bike, dressed head to toe in Rapha clothing; part of the famous Men in Black (no relation to the movies with Will Smith!)

I started with the team in 2007, and that season was no doubt a make or break year for me. I had returned back from Belgium in 2006, after a crap year with a not so brilliant team, when I received a phone call out of the blue from Guy Andrews (now Rouleur editor) and Dominique Gaballini, about the Rapha Condor Cycling Team. To be honest, I had been living in a bubble in Belgium for the last eight months, so I knew nothing about the team.

I did know about Condor Cycles though from when I was a young lad and had watched my now Team Manager John Herety racing around on them for the Percy Bilton pro team back in the late 80′s. Rapha Clothing though was all new to me and it was new to the cycling world too.

I had a great start to my new role as team leader in my first year, winning a few Premier Calendar races early on before I took the Big Win: The Lincoln Grand Prix. This race win will still go down as one of my biggest and one of the most emotional wins of my career. The picture from below shows all the emotion crossing the line.


Above: Winning Lincoln Grand Prix 2007

The following season, 2008 was quite possibly the best in my career (so far!) That summer I took out a second British Criterium Championship as well as winning a stage in the 2.1 Sachen Tour, two of the biggest wins in my career. My timing for the finish line seemed to be pretty good that year, winning the national title by a wheel and the Sachen Tour in the last 50 meters.


Above: Applying the ‘killer’ blow and winning British Circuit Race Championship 2008 ahead of Rob ‘Killer’ Hayles

2009 was the year of the TV crit, when in May of that year the Tour Series started up. The series was an instant success, and it raised the profile of all the UK riders involved. It raised mine too as I was dressed head to toe in white, being British Champion and I thought I would take advantage of everything in white that Rapha and Condor could make. Some people just don’t like white kit but I loved it, until it rained (then it wasn’t a pretty sight on TV.)

The overriding image of me in that white skin suit has to be the first time I won in the British Champs colours at the Exeter round of Tour Series. My idea of pinging my national stripes when flying up the finishing straight for the win went a little bit wrong and the ‘nipple tweak’ victory salute was born. I was adamant it would look good on TV. It didn’t.


Above: The famous ‘ Nipple Tweak ‘ victory salute. Exeter Tour Series 2009.

In 2010, a new partnership was formed and Sharp came on board as a title sponsor for the team. With the company being from Japan, I had the opportunity to do some awesome new races in Asia and one of my first victory salutes of the year came in the Tour of Taiwan. This time another sprint win ended up with yet another odd salute; it was a close one by half a wheel, so I was very excited when I hit the line and I knew I won, (well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it – it definitely has nothing to do with me liking koi carp fish.)

The best trip of 2010 was undoubtedly our race trip to the big apple, New York City. We took part in a couple of races there including the Tour of Battenkill, but the good times started when we were stranded by an ash cloud over Europe, and had to stay over in New York for a week. NYC can be quite a party city, as we found out.

2011 was the dream team year, 45 victories from the RCS boys was an awesome season. I notched up 7 wins for myself that year, but I know that I would have never won these races without the boys looking after me. The real highlight came when we took four team wins and the overall win at the Tour Series. It had taken us three years but finally we grabbed the title.

Another personal highlight came for me that year when, on the 8th July, I won on my daughters 2nd birthday, on Sky Sports TV. That was pretty cool.


Above: Winning on my daughters 2nd Birthday in Abergavenny. Elite Circuit Series 2011.

2012, was a ‘sick’ year and not in the way that the youngsters use the word ‘sick’ nowadays. In the main part of my season, the Tour Series and British Cycling crit series, I was sick 3 times with 3 different viruses. This knocked me around totally and I didn’t manage an individual win all season. I did manage some success when I was rescued with the help of my teammates at the last Tour Series when we won the Time Trial round with a team victory.

This tough year left me a little frustrated with my cycling and whilst working on the Olympics, I had a great opportunity to look at something outside of racing cycling, working part time with an events company. This is now leading to a new time in my life and career, with some great opportunities in the cycling industry.

2013 is going to a busy time for me and my new business, Dean Downing Cycling Limited.

You all know who you are when I say ‘thank you to all involved in the last 6 years of my life at Rapha Condor‘ there are literally too many people to thank over the years, all the riders and staff for starters.

But a special mention goes to John Herety, for picking me up when I have been down (literally off the road sometimes) as well as Simon Mottram at Rapha and Grant Young at Condor, Charlie Jackson at for my best year in 2008, and all at Sharp for the last 3 years of support.

This is not a retirement speech though, as you all know I’m going to be racing around with a new team in 2013.
It’s been emotional.

See you on the grid Rapha Condor boys.


NOTE: To see who is riding for what team, check out VeloUK”s Team Guide

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