Feature: Dean Downing – A difficult transition

In Brother UK Cycling’s serialisation of an in-depth interview with Dean Downing, they discuss the difficult transition for a professional cyclist into retirement

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Feature: Dean Downing – A difficult transition

Dean Downing was one of the most successful domestic pros in the modern era and is now a sought-after coach. Enjoy part 8 of our serialisation of an in-depth interview with Dean from Brother UK Cycling. You can read the full article on the Brother UK Cycling Blog.

Retirement is a difficult transition for any professional athlete and perhaps for a cyclist most of all. The camaraderie of the peloton and the supporting cast of mechanics, soigneurs, journalists and volunteers represent a world within a world – one that can be difficult to leave behind.

Unlike many of his former colleagues however, Dean had planned his retirement, qualifying as a coach and securing a series of promotional contracts with leading brands before hanging up his wheels at the end of 2014. By qualifying as a coach while still a rider, Dean had pivoted his core skillset to increase the sustainability of his career in cycling.

2015 began well. Dean’s roster of coaching clients grew and promotional campaigns with Continental and WattBike progressed, while a project to develop a racing team with sponsor PolyPipe kept him inside the sport. Then disaster struck.

“I was involved in a hit-and-run accident which damaged my cruciate and medial ligaments and put me out of work immediately. The crash happened on a Friday, and I had to cancel a planned weekend of work. All of my contracts involved riding a bike: whether coaching or making promotional videos. Everything stopped. I didn’t work for six months. I didn’t earn any money for six months. That put me in a spiral. My retirement had been planned and then suddenly it wasn’t,” he says.

Leg injuries were a new and shocking development for one accustomed to fast-healing collarbones. A leg brace provided an unwanted reminder of his circumstances for three months, even before beginning a rehabilitation period of equivalent length. Contracts in the intervening period “fell away”, including the proposed sponsorship of the PolyPipe team. While opportunities diminished, the pressing realities of providing for two young children grew.

“Our boy, Isaac, who’s five now, was born in 2014 and was only a year old. Lily, our daughter, was six. My wife was working, but I wasn’t. It was a really tough time, wondering where I was going with this,” he reflects.

“I was outside of cycling. I wasn’t round the races. I wasn’t able to work. I wasn’t able to get the contracts I’d planned for. Being unable to provide for my family was a tough mindset. Over time, I became more and more absorbed by how I was feeling.”

Click here to read the full article, or listen to Dean in conversation with Aussie Larry, Timothy John and Phil Jones MBE, the Managing Director of Brother UK, on the Brother UK Cycling Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

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