Tour of Britain Chat: Russell Downing


There is probably no-one in the Tour of Britain with more experience in the National Tour than Russell Downing who’s career goes back to before the Tour of Britain as we know it even began!

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Tour of Britain Chat: Russell Downing


Russell not impressing Tom Moses it seems before a ride this morning in Glasgow.

I remember a very young Russell Downing 16 years ago or more riding the GP of Essex and here he is, still winning bike races, and back at the Tour of Britain. They say class never leaves you even as the years go past and Russell is proof of that with him being very competitive in 2016.

There is probably no-one in the Tour of Britain more experienced in the National Tour than Russell Downing who’s career goes back before the race even began. This morning I was just finishing the interview with his teammate Steve Lampier when along came ‘Fonzy’ to talk about his Tour of Britain.

I mentioned that when I was looking at photos of the early editions of the race, there he was right up there alongside the likes of Cavendish in the sprints getting second, third or fourth on Tour of Britain stages.


Russell Downing in the 2005 Tour of Britain where he was third on the stage into Sheffield

“Those were the days” he quipped before adding “I feel I’ve a lost a little speed but I can probably hold position in the sprints longer. That was the thing when I was young, I never could hold position and I’d get there late and hopefully be there just in time to get a result. Back in the day, I was bouncing off trains which is quite hard to do but had some good results although never a stage win.”

Asked about whether being one of the older generation still racing, does he get a bit of room and respect, Russell replied “yes but you have to fight it a bit. They look at the jersey and sort of say who are you and you have to hold your ground and maybe on day two, you’ll get more space if you get a good result on day 1. As long as you don’t do anything stupid, you’ll get the respect though.”


Russell Downing finishing on the podium in the crit champs behind teammate Chris Lawless

Russell in RideLondon was picked out by the TV cameras leading out Chris Lawless in a race where Russell has been right up there in the result himself in previous years. Lawless however has crashed and damaged his shoulder, something which is operated on today and we wish well in his recovery from that, but for Rus, how does Chris not riding the race affect his goals in the Tour?

“My job this year has been to look after Chris and I’ve done that by the book most days so hopefully in this race I’ll get some chances. Looking at the race, there isn’t going to be that many sprints and it gets harder and harder every year. Hopefully though I can get up there in the sprints there are.”

“The first day is probably the only one they’ll ride for a sprint and after that, it will be race on. I’ve been training hard and looking after my weight so hopefully I can climb alright. I can dig deep on the climbs but at one time, I could dig really deep and hold position but now it hurts too much and I lose a little bit of time over the top but in this type of race you can come back and I can use my experience to get back on.”
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His team recce’d a stage in the week but Russell says he stayed at home. “I have not done any recons. I chose not to because in some ways they can send you backwards if you see in training how hard it is, you can then worry about it for weeks before the race starts. So I’ll take them as they come and try and get over them.”

Asked how many Tour’s he’s done, he said it was so many he wasn’t sure the number but admits having done the national tour before it was even before the Tour of Britain (PruTour, 1998). “I think I’ve done around nine or so but missed a few with injury and non-selection.”


Rus gets his breath back after a fourth Lincoln GP win. Second in 2016 shows he still has it!

On how its changed over the years, he says “people would come over in the early days and were not keen on racing in the UK but now they love it and the race has got harder. At one time, there were a lot of long transfers and people didn’t like it and wanted longer races. I think Mick (Bennett) has listened to that and made it really hard, too hard perhaps!”

“My highlights include coming into Sheffield and going for the win after being in the break all day (third). Last year I didn’t really enjoy it as I had a knee problem, so I’m looking forward to doing it and being in good shape”.

Finally, asked for a word on how important it is, he says “this race is so important to British teams, British riders and British sponsors. Riders put a lot into their season to prepare for it like I’ve trained really hard for the last month and put my life on hold just for the Tour of Britain and why not for what is the last race of the year”.

Good luck to Russell in the race this year and whilst he’s not won a stage yet, don’t count him out doing that this year! Thanks Fonzy and good luck.



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