Feature – Tour Series with Dean Downing


Talking to one of the ‘winningest’ riders in the Tour Series, Dean Downing, about the races that have lifted the sport in Britain

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Feature – Tour Series with Dean Downing

In 2009, the Tour Series came along and over the years, it and the Tour of Britain have helped change the sport to a point where its unrecognisable these days to what it was 20 years ago. Look at the result from Yorkshire with multiple British riders in the hunt on GC from domestic based teams!


Dean Downing and perhaps the most famous domestic celebration in Tour Series history – nipple tweak!

Proper pro teams are there now, the strength in depth is much better than I have ever known in almost 20 years in the sport and the scene here also attracts some World Class riders. The reason Sweetspot has helped change the sport is because it puts its races on TV. Free to air TV as well (ITV4) and that brings in sponsors. And then there’s the crowds which for most events are huge.

The Pearl Izumi Tour Series returns again in 2015 and it’s set to be the toughest yet. New rules with the top five riders counting for the team award means one mistake to one rider could knock the stuffing out of a team’s challenge for the win as we saw with Raleigh in a team time trial in 2013 when one of the riders crashed.


So, Thursday sees the Pearl Izumi Tour Series 2015 kick off in Ryde on the Isle of Wight and if the National Elite Men’s Road Series is anything to go by, it’s going to be tough to win this year!

Of the teams riding, the top four in the Prems so far; (One Pro Cycling, Raleigh GAC, NFTO, and Madison Genesis in that order) are covered by two points after three events and whilst JLT-Condor haven’t had a great start to 2015, the Pearl Izumi Tour Series winners last year cannot be discounted and nor can Team Wiggins where the knight in shining in armour is said to be riding a few rounds to prepare for the hour record.

Pedal Heaven have also shown last year in the Tour Series and again in the Prems this year that they have significant firepower to pull off an upset as have teams such as SportGrub KUOTA and Velosure Starley Primal who have all had riders in the mix.

There are two goals for teams in the Tour Series, those who feel they can win the Series and will play the team game and those who feel that perhaps it’s better to go for the publicity of an individual win and take advantage of some slack from the teams going for the team award.

It is the latter that is the focus of the series with the winning team getting the big trophy and the champagne celebration in Bath after the final round.


Thumbs up at Deano’s retirement race from the Tour Series in 2014

But, what is special about the Tour Series?

Who better to ask than a rider who loved it and was not only winning rounds individually but also as part of a team. He was one of the big stars of the Tour Series and says he will miss it this year after retiring from racing. Dean Downing.

“Its been a massive part of the UK scene for years now and for the guys who are really good at crits, it means a lot”.

“You can get yourself and your sponsor on television and earn yourself a good wage from it. It’s fast and furious and I used to love it! It is very different to road racing and the thing I love about it are the crowds that come out. Some of the races have had 10,000 people watching all in a one kilometre circuit.”

“So what Sweetspot do is take these events to the people and it’s a mega event.”

Because the Tour Series races are an hour or so long, they are full on flat stick races with a lot of riders in the frame for the win so what does Dean feel a team or rider needs to do to be successful as he has been?


Team winning, Ed Clancy wins the individual  and Deano’s team back up perfectly behind

“In the beginning, it was a totally new concept with the top three riders in a team counting to that classification with the lowest points winning the race. With me being a decent crit rider racing in the crit champs jersey, I wanted to win the race and get my hands in the air”.

“So I did that and behind me, my teammates placed well but not as well as we wanted and I ended up getting told off for winning a bike race by Mr Herety which we joke about to this day!”

“But looking back, he was right and everything got more tactical. We started attacking in twos to get in a breakaway so we had a really good chance of getting two riders in the top ten. There would be team lead outs but not for one rider to win, but for three riders to get across the line as close to the front as they could. It made the racing more tactical and some teams could work at it and some just couldn’t”.

“Like last year when I was racing. Jon Mould (riding for NFTO then, now One Pro Cycling) was flying and he won three races back to back whilst we had a lot of bad luck in the NFTO team. Punctures, crashes, saddle problems etc so we ended up not getting a great team prize but the NFTO team got a lot of publicity from Mouldy winning individual events.”

“But the event has changed again now. It’s on time now with the top five counting so it’s like a stage race which will be interesting and the winning margins will be seconds as it’s so tight the racing. It makes it easier I think for the riders and the crowd too.

From the event regulations … “All five riders will be awarded a finishing time for every round (excluding the team time trial). The team with the lowest aggregate time will be awarded the team victory, and so on, down to ninth position. The individual result is based upon time.”

“I think it’s a good change and will make the racing more exciting as riders will be racing for every place.”


But as Dean knows all too well, bad luck can really hurt a team. “We had some real bad luck in the first few years where I think it was Portsmouth where we were last and we never finished last. It only happened because Zak Dempster did a massive lead out for the team and we had one up the road. Zak pulled off after doing his job and then one of our riders crashed and with two laps to go, I had a flat tyre.”

“We had two riders finish. So there is a big element of luck but you also have to think on your wheels in the race a lot. It is all about looking after your teammates.”

Dean, after he retired, joined Trainsharp Coaching and admits there is a rider in the series he is coaching. Asked would he train a rider different for the Tour Series than for road racing, he replies “Yes! The rider I’m coaching, we’ve had him doing for the last four weeks, what the Tour Series is all about, the efforts he’ll be doing on Tuesday and Thursday.”

“I have learnt a lot more from Jon Sharples, Sean Yates and the people at Trainsharp about coaching properly. I knew how to rest, I was good at that, and the efforts and when to do them but with the help I have got through Trainsharp, I have learnt a lot more as well”.


Deano with event director Mick Bennett

“It’s about replicating. That’s what training is, replicating the hurt in the race so it’s about replicating Tour Series blocks without the travel. So my guy has been doing double days, a cruisey effort over two or three hours in the morning and then a real hard turbo session in evening.”

“It is definitely worth training properly for the Tour Series just to replicate it because it is bloody hard.”

Dean then explained that because its flat out from the off, the warm up is important too. “If you didn’t get your warmup correct in the Tour Series, you were on the back foot straight away because they are so intense. A few times that happened to me through my own fault chatting to sponsors or TV and then realising I only had ten minutes to warm up.”

“With a structured warmup, you can hit the ground running from lap three or four when it kicks off and the attacks are going. Everybody is fresh, and everybody will do a different warm up, but if you do it correct, you are going to be in a good place”.

“Do it wrong and you could be in a bad place and I’ve felt what that is like chasing my tail until half distance and you waste so much energy doing that.”


Move up, move up
One of the shouts from managers you will see in a race is them telling riders to move up. Easy to say but how easy is that to do? “My idea was to ride in the top ten or top five to get through the first part because the elastic band effect is so whiplashy at the back. You go round a corner in 40th wheel very slowly…”

One way riders would use to move up is to ‘dive bomb’ by coming into a corner fast underneath riders in front of them. It can end in disaster and did so many times over the years. “There was one year where it happened a lot and it was causing a few crashes, a lot of grief and a few senior riders were thinking it was crazy.”

“People were dive bombing all the time for no reason. The worst thing about dive dombing is if you don’t do it right, it can cause havoc. If you know what you are doing, you can dive bomb, get round the corner quick and slot in near the front and you’re off”.

“Ed Clancy is pretty good at that, I used to be good at that. I think even Mick Bennett noticed all the dive bombing and was saying there doesn’t seem to be a lot of respect between riders and it needs to stop as he don’t want everyone crashing”.

“That was good and it made a difference. The worst type of dive bomb you can get is when they do it in a panic like from 40th to 35th.”

Dean added there used to be a big difference between the top riders and the not so good ones when it came to technical ability. “There was at the beginning when there were always the same riders in the breakaways; Rus,(his brother Russell Downing), myself, Graham Briggs, Haylsey, Wilko etc.”

“Now though, you look at the teams now with their buses and so on, the standard of the riding has also risen a lot in those years since the start. You do have a very good forty or fifty man peloton where a lot of them are full time or part time”.

“The standard of riding has risen a lot. You still get a few crazy ones and you have to tell them what to do and what not to do.”

Dean, who experienced both individual and team victories, says that when you experienced both in the same race, it was great but managing desires for the individual win and the team are difficult. “When you attack and nobody chases you, you’re not going to go slow are you?”

So there are opportunities for riders who just want to win the bike race I asked?

“Yes and it will happen this year and it will be difficult for riders so managers will have to manage it by telling the riders what the team wants them to do.”

Which means there will be managers who will happily take an individual win even if it costs them the team win which they may never have got in the first place whilst other managers will want their team to pack the front of the race and win the team award.

Which makes predications that more difficult. I think the usual suspects like One Pro Cycling, NFTO, Raleigh, Madison Genesis and JLT Condor will want that team win. Team Wiggins, hard to know as I’m sure they’d be chuffed with a hands in the air jobby as would any of the remaining teams which haven’t yet won a round of the series either way.


Start/Finish area for the Tour Series round 1 at Ryde on the Isle of Wight

So that just leaves me to finish off and talk quickly about the circuit at Ryde. It starts from the sea front and after a hundred metres perhaps (nothing is in place at the moment to judge it better) the riders will turn left (90 degrees) and climb up Union street and that is one tough climb.

Worse, the road narrows to half the width just before the corner at the bottom of the climb so there will probably be some bun fights going on as riders try to move up for position for the climb.”

After the climb, a gradual descent and then a steeper descent after yet another sharp 90 degree bend. Then they hit the esplanade and that is flat and two lanes wide although narrower with barriers in place.

It will be interesting to see what riders the teams have come with because a climber or five climbers will be helpful!

The weather is set to be wet for the Team Time Trial but good for the circuit race so cross your fingers the forcast gets better, not worse!


The view of the riders racing to the first corner and the peloton having to squeeze in…


First corner to the climb


The climb up Union street, tough once never mind ever minute or so for an hour!


The race down Melville Street, 40mph plus I expect … nice new surface.


Down to the final corner and in the distance, Portsmouth on the otherside of the water.



JLT Condor presented by Mavic
John Herety
1. Graham Briggs
2. Ed Clancy
3. Felix English
4. Luke Grivell-Mellor
5. Richard Handley
6. Kristian House
7. Richard Lang
8. Joe Moses
9. Tom Moses
10. Harry Tanfield

Madison Genesis
Roger Hammond
11. Matt Cronshaw
12. Matt Holmes
13. Liam Holohan
14. Tobyn Horton
15. Martyn Irvine
16. Mark McNally
17. Mike Northey
18. Erick Rowsell
19. Tom Stewart
20. Tom Scully

Team Raleigh GAC
Cherie Pridham
21. Calvin Beneke
22. Karol Domagalski
23. Andy Hawdon
24. Morgan Kneisky
25. Steve Lampier
26. Sam Lowe
27. Evan Oliphant
28. George Pym
29. Liam Stones
30. Ian Wilkinson

NFTO Pro Cycling
David Povall
31. Dale Appleby
32. Tom Barras
33. Ian Bibby
34. Rhys Lloyd
35. Sam Harrison
36. James Lowsley Williams
37. Zach May
38. Jonathan McEvoy
39. Rob Partridge
40. Steele Von Hoff

SportGriub Kuota
Andy Swain
41. Stephen Adams
42. Will Bjergfelt
43. Ryan Davis
44. Adam Duggleby
45. Dan Fleeman
46. Adam Kenway
47. Richard Hepworth
48. Adam Martin
49. Ollie Maxwell
50. Ryan Perry

Velosure Starley Primal
James Smith
51. Stephen Bradbury
52. Josh Burns
53. Marius Cordier
54. James Davey
55. James Gullen
56. Jack Kirk
57. Davie Lines
58. Adria Moreno
59. Joseph Petrowski
60. Jack Pullar

Pedal Heaven
Tim Elverson
61. Lewis Atkins
62. Will Fox
63. Simon Holt
64. Gruff Lewis
65. David McGowan
66. Alex Paton
67. Max Stedman
68. Rory Townsend
69. Mitch Webber
70. Stephen Williams

ONE Pro Cycling
Matt Winston
71. George Atkins
72. Yanto Barker
73. Marcin Bialoblocki
74. George Harper
75. Marc Hester
76. Josh Hunt
77. Jon Mould
78. Chris Opie
79. Pete Williams
80. Sam Williams

Simon Cope
81. Steven Burke
82. Mark Christian
83. Jon Dibben
84. Owain Doull
85. Luc Hall
86. Chris Lawless
87. Iain Paton
88. Daniel Patten
89. Andrew Tennant
90. Sir Bradley Wiggins

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