Tour of Britain Chat: Russell Downing

His first Tour of Britain was 1998 (PruTour) but Russell Downing is still doing the business helping his sprinter teammate Brenton Jones in the bunch kicks … we chat …

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Tour of Britain Chat: Russell Downing

His first Tour of Britain was 1998 but Russell Downing is still doing the business helping his sprinter teammate Brenton Jones in the bunch kicks.

On stage 3, Brenton Jones was fourth which was a big result for the team and a key rider in looking after Brenton is Russell Downing. We spoke to Russell after stage 1 and he explained that on that stage, things were grippy.

“My job is to look after Brenton and on that stage we expected a bunch kick or a reduced bunch sprint anyway. I just got tailed off on the climb after doing quite a bit of work before it but managed to come back”.

“We left our run late because we knew there was only me and Brenton so I put in a late charge with 2k to go and got him in place and then we got swamped so I had to go with a K to go and dropped him 7th or 8th wheel at the last corner and that’s where he stayed. He was happy with that in that company. There are a hell of a lot of good sprinters here and that’s makes it hard for us.”

On being the oldest rider in the race, he shrugs it off and says “I am still stronger than I have ever been, the endurance is still there too but I have lost a little speed. I was having a laugh with G (Geraint Thomas) at the finish yesterday about the cross wind section and it was splitting and he was shaking his head saying ‘no way am I going to be boxing off it in the crosswinds at 39!’”

“I said to him he had more money than me but it is good fun and still love it and will continue doing it as long as I can. I enjoy the jobs I do for Brenton or A Frame or any of the sprinters in the team”.

Going back to that first day, Russell says the first day of a Tour is never usually good for him. “Day three or four is where I stay where I am and the others dip down”.

Russell rode for Sky and had some good pro wins in the team’s colours

Asked to explain how the race changes over the week, he says “it gets less nervous. Day 1 was pretty sketchy, big roads and everyone wanted to be in the break so you could sense that something was bubbling and there was a crash. So it’s good to relax for that first bit. We had Brigga and Bibby going for the move and Briggsy did that . The race then settles down”.

The next question was which teams are the ‘patrons’ of the peloton, controlling it. “With it being a sprinters race, Sky are there for Viviani, Orica for Caleb so as soon as Sky stop for a nature break, Orica step in. and vice versa and Quickstep were up there too. It was grippy all day!”

Finally, it’s easy to say for a rider I do this or that in a race but what we don’t see on the TV coverage is actually how that role for a rider is acted out. So I asked Russell to explain a little more about his role in the race.

“Brenton and me ride a pretty similar style. We can climb okay, he can climb good on his day, so if I sense something is about to kick off or get nervous, I take him up, if I am not front of him, I chaperone him.”
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“If he needs to get through a nervous bunch, I’ll get him through so he can ride through it easier. For me, it’s what is normal for me. It’s about the craft of knowing where to be. Like on that climb when I got gapped, I managed to come back. I saw Roger Kluge (former teammate) and he was coming back to help Caleb and we said ‘let’s punch it now and we came back. There was a barrage (gap in the convoy created by the commsisares) on too which made it harder”.

I asked does he have any problem going from the level of a Prem to the level of World Tour racing in the Tour of Britain, Russell replied “I have always dropped in and out of Prems and into these sort of races and got results.”

“If you go into these races thinking these boys are going to kick my head in, you may as well not turn up. It is sometimes faster for longer but some of those races we do in Asia, and Portugal too, are also pretty rapid.”

Thanks to Rus for the insight and good luck for the rest of the Tour




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