National circuit race champion Dean Downing showed off his matching white skinsuit and bike to good effect in Exeter, crossing the line clear of the chasing pack to allow time for an unusual jersey-tugging celebration.

It may have worked on television but photographs of the winner looked peculiar, to say the least.

?You wouldn?t believe how much stick I have got for that!? he admitted. ?The first still makes it look I am playing with my nipples, and the second looks like a yoga pose. I was trying to ping my stripes but it didn?t come out so good.?

Nipple-twiddling or not, Downing and his Rapha Condor team played the team tactics to perfection on Thursday. Kristian House and Tom Southam joined Downing in the ten-man break that proved to be the winning move, putting them level on points with leaders CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta going into Tuesday?s round in Woking.

The opening race in Milton Keynes saw Downing waving frantically for team-mates as the whole bunch struggled to get to grips with the new team format, devised by former national road champion Brian Smith. Rapha Condor?s five-man team sat down with John Herety before Exeter and formed a strategy.

?It was a strange start for everybody: you have to think a lot more during the race,? said Downing. ?We needed to be placed in the first 15 or 20 riders for the whole of the race and in Exeter we did that. We did it brilliantly at the end when we placed three in the ten-man split. Tom did the last lap on the front and Kristian led me out. It was perfect.?

Dean Downing Rapha wins Exeter Tour SeriesTwin peaks: Downing models champion’s jersey

New tactics are being devised that would not be seen in ordinary crits, with teams attacking in pairs, according to Downing. ?Halfords did it; Corley did it, with Simon Gaywood and Matt Higgins; and we started doing it with Kristian and Tom going in the same moves: that is the perfect tactic. If they chase you, you let one go up the road and then sit in the attack. It is very different tactically, but it is a very good concept.?

Hour-long televised criteriums are something the current generation of riders ? Malcolm Elliott excepted ? would struggle to remember. The Kelloggs series in the ?80?s was prime-time viewing on Channel 4. Downing says the teams are already feeling the effects of the Tour Series.

?It is massive exposure for all ten teams involved,? he said. ?Mick Bennett and his team have done a great job. It was good in Milton Keynes and it stepped up a gear in Exeter. It was a big, big crowd. They were six or seven deep on the finishing straight.?

With so much racing over the coming weeks, Downing is doing little training except recovery rides in the company of brother Russell and his CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta team-mate Graham Briggs. “I had a steadier start to the season this year. I tried to plan it with John Herety in the winter so I didn?t race as much early season and it seems to be paying dividends at the moment,” he said.

Round three in Woking on Tuesday [June 2] promises to be equally well populated and is another excellent tight circuit. The bunch reconvene two days later in Peterbough for round four on Thursday [June 4].

Candi TV Marshalls pasta team Exeter Tour seriesCurrent leaders: CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta

TEAM STANDINGS AFTER ROUND TWO

1. CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta 20pts

2. Rapha ? Condor 20

3. Plowman Craven ? Madison 17

4. Team Halfords Bikehut 12

5. Sport Beans ? Wilier 12

6. BMC UK Racing Team 10

7. Sigma Sport Cycling Team 10

8. Team Corley Cycles 7

9. www.cyclingbargains.com 6

10. Endura Racing 2

THE TOUR SERIES: 2009 DATES

June 2 Tour Series criterium 3, Woking

June 4 Tour Series criterium 4, Peterborough

June 9 Tour Series criterium 5, Blackpool

June 11 Tour Series criterium 6, Southport

June 16 Tour Series criterium 7, Stoke-on-Trent

June 18 Tour Series criterium 8, Colchester

June 23 Tour Series criterium 9, Chester

June 25 Tour Series criterium 10, Southend on Sea

TOUR SERIES ON TV

ITV4, 7pm, Wednesday, June 3. Also available online with ITV Player if you miss it on Wednesday.

SUPER TEAM CHALLENGE


Almost as important as winning the Tour Series – not quite, but almost – is the prestigious Super Team Challenge, Cycling Weekly’s very own internationally renowned award – this sport’s equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival, but without the Croisette. Or the croissant. And definitely no red carpet.

No major changes in the standings although Rapha Condor has narrowed the gap after scoring in both this weeks? counting events, Exeter and the Edinburgh Nocturne.

Garmin Slipstream hoovered most of the points in Edinburgh, thanks to David Millar and Cameron Meyer, but the Super Team Challenge is for home-based British teams only, so they will not be gatecrashing the league table.

Only one conundrum for the panel of judges this week. One-man band Yanto Barker, normally riding under the guise of Le Col-Colnago, has teamed up with Sigma Sport for the duration of the Tour Series. Who gets the solitary point for Barker?s fifth place in Exeter?

Welcome to the scoreboard, Sigma Sport.

Halfords Bikehut 90

CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta 85

Rapha Condor 56

Sports Beans-Wilier 26

Plowman Craven-Madison 23

Le Col-Colnago 10

Corley Cycles 6

Sigma Sport 1

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RELATED LINKS

Tour Series, Exeter – photo gallery by Paul Watson

Dean Downing wins in Exeter

Briggs wins first round of Tour Series

Cycling Weekly British team profiles

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EXTERNAL LINKS

Tour Series: www.tourseries.co.uk