Feature: Dean Downing – reality and recovery

In part 9 of the serialisation of Brother Cycling’s in-depth interview with Dean Downing, they discuss the reality and recovery at the end of a career on the road

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Feature: Dean Downing – reality and recovery

Dean Downing was one of the most successful domestic pros in the modern era and is now a sought-after coach. Enjoy part nine 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.

With the most challenging year of his life drawing to a close, Dean called John Herety, who offered him a position as assistant DS, working with Tim Kennaugh to manage the JLT-Condor squad’s Tour Series campaign. One need look no further within cycle sport for an example of the value inherent in long-term relationships, so critical to Brother UK in a commercial context.

Herety’s generosity “rescued me massively”, Dean reflects, but with the team’s budget allocated before his appointment, its value lay principally in returning him to the sport. His financial pressures remained largely unabated.

The emotional burden of mounting debts grew with each passing month of the new year. Dean’s wife Katie, still working and coping well with the circumstances, began to recognise signs of depression in her husband – an observation later confirmed by medical diagnosis. “All through 2016, I was so up and down. Red letters were coming in the post, and bills were going out of the window. It was a really tough time, financially and mentally. I think it was about half-way through 2016 that my wife noticed the signs of depression,” he says.

“She had been diagnosed with post-natal depression after Isaac’s birth in 2014. I went to the doctor for a check-up because I was 40. By the end of the consultation, he’d diagnosed me with mild depression. In a sense, it was good, because the signs were there, but that journey continued for the whole of 2016.”

The pressure was eventually lifted in 2017 by a settlement cheque from Leigh Day, the insurance company who’d fought Dean’s case for compensation. His openness about the pressures faced until that point, however, offers an insight into the financial reality faced by many domestic pros on leaving the sport. Dean raced at the highest level of British cycle sport for more than a decade, competing in arguably its most stable era. Even teams as outwardly professional as Rapha-Condor, Madison-Genesis and NFTO, however, did not have sufficient budget to pay their riders salaries on which they could retire from working life.

It’s a reality Dean is happy to share with younger riders. Asked by Sonia Pidcock, Tom’s mother, at a recent Yorkshire Awards ceremony what advice he would give to her son’s generation, he urged professional and elite riders to start their preparations for life after cycling while in the midst of their riding careers.

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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