Talkingshop: Endura Racing’s Russell Downing


Back from his team’s first get together ahead of the 2013 season, Endura Racing’s Russell Downing is busy mixing business with pleasure in the British rain

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Prior to Christmas, most of the riders in the NetApp-Endura Cycling Team got together in Almeria (Spain) which you can find on the bottom right of the country, south of Alicante where Cycling Holiday Spain training camps are based.


Four wins in the biggest classic in Britain, the Lincoln Grand Prix. Sadly due to UCI/British Cycling rules it would appear that Russell will not be able to race the event while at ProConti level unless part of a national team.

One of those riders was former British Road Race Champion Russell Downing, one of, if not the most experienced of the pros in the team who explained to VeloUK that the camp was quite low key training wise. Russell signed a two year contract with the German/Scottish team, saying “that’s the first time I have signed for two years in my life! It’s coming a bit late but it’s all going right for me now!”

Russell’s 2012
1st Eddie Soens Memorial Road Race
1st Grand Prix de la Ville de Lillers
1st Lincoln Grand Prix (4th win in the event)
1st Stage 5 Glava Tour of Norway
1st Beaumont Trophy
2nd Overall Circuit des Ardennes, 1st, Points classification, 1st Stage 1

Other Key Wins (click to see the full list)
2010: 1st Overall Tour de Wallonie, 1st Stage 5
2010: 1st Stage 2 Critérium International
2009: 1st Overall Tour of Ireland, 1st Stage 1, 1st Points Jersey
Plus countless Premiers and other races!


The camp was more meet and greet rather than a smashfest which the later camps may well end up being as selection for races starts to appear on a rider’s radar. “Everyone was at different levels so the riding was steady and there was no pressure” Russell explained.

“When we go back in January, I think it will be a different story. It was a good camp and really relaxed. We’d do a few other things in the afternoon like we played basketball one day after training just to get moral up in the team and help everyone gel together”.

“I think we did well with that. Then, on the last few days of training, we went high into the hills and I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to going back.” Not having to been to that part of the world before, Russell said the roads were great even if some did just disappear at times. On some days, they got in 3,000 metres of climbing in ideal weather conditions, a far cry from what riders have had to endure in Britain.

“It was a good ten ten day camp and we’re ready to go to war together now” he said of the get together.

Unlike WorldTour teams which fairly or unfairly can plan their race programmes well in advance as they are assured selection for the major races, ProConti teams like NetApp have to wait for the invites to races to come in so while Russell and the riders had little meetings with management about 2013, ‘Fonzy’ doesn’t expect to see a specific race programme start to be carved out until the next camp in early January. A few races are pencilled in said the South Yorkshire rider but admits it’s still very early days.

Arriving home before Christmas, Russell explained he hasn’t done a great deal on the bike but is determined to stay relaxed and not beat himself up by smashing it in the bad weather. Instead, the turbo trainer has been working overtime in his garage just like many many more around the country but as the season looms large, it’s time for riders like Russell to step up the hours and intensity on the road.


At a wet Eddie Soens Memorial in March, Russell helped Endura Racing get off to a winning start with more Endura riders lined up behind him

“With Xmas out of the way, I hope to get some more rides in before the next camp in early January” says Rus. “I’m trying to get at least four hours in when I venture out in the weather. Dean (brother), Swifty (Ben Swift) and me went out into the Peak District the other day for four and half hours with some good work in there. Everything has to be up over four hours now if we’re riding.”

With the new year just round the corner, Russell says the all new Endura kit has arrived in the colours of NetApp and his new bike from Fuji is also about to be delivered. Russell though had a few samples of the new Endura kit for his trip to South Africa back in November and was pleased with the new clothing.

“The kit is all new” he explained. “I only had shorts and a short sleeved jersey but it’s been totally revamped. It’s good gear! Ten years ago, riding here in Britain would have been a different story and you would have been putting tops on top of tops but now everything has moved on that much.”

Russell explained that with a good base layer and a warm Endura jacket on, he’s able to get out there, get the job done and get home. “The Endura gloves are good enough you only have to wear one layer and if your feet are warm with thermal overshoes, you’ll be fine”.

The weather he’s having to train in is all a far cry from his time in South Africa in November. “It wasn’t long enough!” he says of the two week trip. “We had a great time with a bit of riding, bit of enjoying the hospitality and the weather was good in the main.”

“It’s always good to get out there and get in some three or four hour rides in the sun. We’d go out early with some of the local guys and after bit of training, we’d get back with plenty of time to relax”.


Russell giving it his all and coming close to a win in the Devil…. appropriate!

One of the rides Russell did out there was a ‘Double Century’. It was says Rus, a 203 kilometre ‘race’ which was good fun. “I didn’t know what to expect and did it with some of the Hot Chillee guys and they were really keen and loving it”.

“So Dean and I dragged them round for five and half hours or so. You start in groups of 12 and have to get the fastest six across the line and I think with 78k to go, we were down to six men, so it was a bit of a struggle on a horrible day with a little rain but so windy there were bodies all over. I loved it!”

“Dean was like saying ‘you love this’ as I was sat on the front with the throttle wide open and he was like ‘slow down’!

A new beginning – 2013
While Russell doesn’t yet know his race programme for the 2013 season with his new team, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t given it some thought saying “being a pro continental team, you can’t say I want to ride this or that race because we may not get in them but once the programme comes in, I’ll know what I want to do.”

“I want to do well in the Classics if we can get the invites. The team also wants to ride a Grand Tour again and the classics and if that happens, and if there was a choice between the classics and a grand tour, I’d ride the classics having already ridden the Giro.”

There was a big BUT in that however and Russell admits that his goals would change should the team get an invite to the Tour de France. Perhaps Russell will get to ride the Tour in Yorkshire in 2014? “I’d never say no to the Tour de France!” he says.

At this time of year though, its training that is the key focus and whilst many riders head to warmer climates to train, for riders with partners working in the UK, that isn’t always an option and Russell is one who says he’ll stay here unless the weather gets really crap.

“If that happens, I’ll jump on a plane and go away. With the training camps, we’re away for ten days training, then relaxing for ten days and then we go away again and that’s worked for the last two or three years. If I need to get a hard week in and I don’t think the weather is up to it, I have four airports within a short distance of me so I can jump on a plane and get out of here.”


Russell playing to the camera while on the front of the peloton protecting Job Locke’s lead in the Tour of Britain.

One aspect of the sport that has become even more pronounced than it has been in the past is weight loss to improve a rider’s power to weight ratio. It’s something Bradley Wiggins and team Sky led the way with in 2012. Asked about this, Russell replied “If you can get the happy medium of having the power and being the lightest you can be, then that’s fine.”

“It is a bit different for the sprinters though. You can get away with that extra kilo or so to keep that power but for riders like Brad and climbers, it makes sense to be the lightest you can be.” And speaking of sprinting, while many pros will be racing on the other side of the World in events such as the Tour Down Under in January, Russell’s first race of 2013 will be on the boards of the Manchester Velodrome at Revolution 39.

“Its fun to do and I really enjoy it when I get back on the boards” he says of the international track opens. “I started out on the boards a lot of years ago and enjoy it when I come here. Sometimes it hurts when I’m not in the best shape for the track stuff but I like to race it. No pain no gain!”

And that is Russell all over. If ever there was a Yorkshire Terrier, its him. Aggressive to the max in races, giving his all and that can be expected again at the next Revolution event before he heads back to Spain for another ten days of hard work with his new team.

Thanks to Russell for his time …


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