Russell Downing Interview: Lincoln GP winner motivated about upcoming goals
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Friday, May 18, 2012

Russell Downing Interview: Lincoln GP winner motivated about upcoming goals

by Shane Stokes at 4:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
Briton speaks about Tour of Norway, Sky split, Endura racing, future targets and more

Russell DowningIt’s been an eventful past few days for Russell Downing, the former Tour of Ireland winner and Sky Procycling rider, who is now competing with an Endura Racing team.

On Sunday he soloed to a record fourth victory in the Lincoln Grand Prix in England, dropping breakaway companion Marcin Bialoblocki (Node 4 Giordana) on the final ascent of the Michaelgate climb.

“There was a great crowd, great atmosphere, and quite a hard race,” he told VeloNation this week. “It was good to get the win, and quite a nice achievement to get the record.”

Since then, Downing has travelled to the Tour of Norway and has ridden two out of the five stages thus far. He was clear on what he wanted to do beforehand, saying that he believed he had the form to chase a stage win, but stages one and two have been frustrating.

Wednesday he almost crashed inside the final three kilometres, being pushed onto gravel, nearly hitting a ditch and losing any chance of fighting for a result. Thursday was another case of ‘what-if,’ as he punctured two kilometres from the end.

He’ll keep trying, though, knowing that his condition is good and believing that he can do something in the 2.1-ranked race.

Downing and his team-mates are competing against WorldTour teams Orica GreenEdge, Sky Procycling, Garmin Barracuda, Lotto Belisol, Lampre-ISD and Saxo Bank there. In 2010 and 2011 he was himself a member of a WorldTour team as a rider with Sky, but his contract was not renewed and he joined Endura Racing instead.

The team isn’t at the same financial or sporting level as his old squad, but while he misses being part of the WorldTour, the 33 year old is clear that there are some benefits to his new setup.

“Last year I sort of lost myself a bit of a rider, I didn’t win races, but I got seconds and thirds and that. But this year I have re-found Russell Downing and started winning races, and also winning races for other people. It is great to be winning again and putting my name back up there.”

Downing’s results this year have been motivating for him. In early March he won the 1.2-ranked GP Ville de Lillers plus the Eddie Soens Memorial Cycle Race, then he went on to clock up fourth in the Route Adélie de Vitré, win stage one and finish second overall in the Circuit des Ardennes, net a solid eighth on a stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and pick up that win at the Lincoln Grand Prix.

Going forward he’s got clear targets, as he explains below, with two races in particular standing out for him in terms of importance. He speaks about his disappointment with how things ended up with Sky, how he’s got his morale back with Endura, his goals for this year and more.

VeloNation: First off, Russell, you won the Lincoln Grand Prix again – how did that feel?

Russell Downing: Lincoln is a great race and I always love to come back and ride it, and win it when I can. There was a great crowd, great atmosphere, and quite a hard race. It was good to get the win.

You’ve also performed well in other races this year, including wins in some overseas events – how does the Lincoln success compare to the other results you’ve got this season?

RD: Well, obviously it is good to win back in the UCI but it is good to win on the continent as well. I am not racing much in the UK nowadays, but it’s quite a local race to myself. It is the fourth time I have won it, and that goes down as record number of wins. So that is quite a nice achievement.

There are only a couple of races that I want to target in the UK and that is one of them. So it’s a good box to tick.

VN: Looking at the year overall, what stands out for you?

RD: Well, we had a great start to the year with JT [John Tiernan Locke] down in the Tour of the Med and Haut Var. It was great to back him, get him into position at the bottom of the climbs and see him do the job.

But in every race the team has done, we have all done well as a unit, which has been good. I think we are still leading the Europe Tour, which is good.

I had a couple of wins - a stage win in the Ardennes, the GP Lilliers and some other good results. So it has been quite a good few months, really.

VN: Looking ahead, what are the key races on your schedule?

Russell DowningRD: I’m doing the Tour of Norway this week. That is a good stage race. That is one of the last minute preparations for the nationals, and the nationals is on the course that I won on in 2005. I am looking to do a good result there, then relax a bit more and build up to the Tour of Britain at the end of the year.

VN: You were with a WorldTour team for the past couple of years. While Endura is developing, it isn’t quite at the same level. Is it a goal of yours to get back up to the top level?

RD: Yeah, I obviously loved riding there for two years. I am pretty disappointed not to be still riding there. I think the results and what I did in the last couple of years should have got me a ride, but things happened for whatever reason.

I obviously still want to ride at the that top level. It would be great if Endura can move to Pro Continental next year – we have got the results, we have got the team, we just need that extra backing to get up to the next level.

It would be great to either go back there with Endura, or see what else happens.

VN: Was it a one year deal you signed with Endura?

RD: Yes, that’s right.

VN: Obviously it is great if Endura gets the backing, but if you have to look elsewhere, do you see the nationals and the Tour of Britain as the mechanism to showcase your abilities and to get that slot?

RD: Well, I am not really thinking outside of Endura at the moment. Last year I sort of lost myself a bit of a rider, I didn’t win races, but I got seconds and thirds and that. But this year I have re-found Russell Downing and started winning races, and also winning races for other people. Winning race for other people is all I did while I was with Sky last year, so it is great to be winning again and putting my name back up.

I am not really looking elsewhere, really…I am just enjoying my bike again, and riding well.

VN: If you have a choice as to what happens, is it that Endura expands and steps up?

RD: Definitely - we have got a great bunch of guys there, and we are all knitting together pretty well. There is nobody in there who thinks they are whatever, and everyone will stick their neck on the line for the others. In every race we go to, we have a good few guys who can win that race so we have got a few cards to play, really.

So that would be number one option. Obviously my results are proving I’m enjoying bike riding again, so obviously something is working.

VN: I guess if Endura steps up, you are guaranteed to be one of the leaders, but if you are back with a WorldTour team, you might have less opportunity for yourself…

RD: Yeah, I know that is how it works in the WorldTour. That is why I was disappointed not to get a contract with Sky as I did everything they said as I won races for other people. I just got on with the job, and not to get anything was disappointing.

If you went to a WorldTour team again…I know you don’t go favourites to every race. This is not how it works and you can’t always demand that. I will have to work it out, but one thing I will say is that I am pretty happy again in who I am and what I am doing with team, to be honest.

VN: Do you see the nationals as a chance to prove a point, or do you view it differently than that?

RD: No, I don’t work like that. I don’t want to prove a point to anyone. I know how good I am. I know that I haven’t won races by fluke over the last ten years. I just want to work on what I have done this year and in the last few years. If I can get a good result at the nationals, then that is what it will be. But I will be extra motivated with it being on the course I won on in 2005.

I am focusing ahead now. I had a good race in the Circuit Ardennes, then I came home and targeted the Lincoln and won that. It is not an international race any more, but it is still a big race for the team. So winning that was a good feeling.

VN: Do you have a particular goal for Norway, given that you are in good form?

RD: Yeah... there are five stages in Norway and I think a couple of them do suit me. I am going to head over there and look at possibly taking a stage win. The Lincoln showed that I am in good condition, so hopefully I will get a result over there.

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