Downing adapts to embrace new challenge

Russell Downing came to Australia with a solid winter base in his legs, despite the best efforts of the British winter.

The Brit spent a week in Portugal before Christmas and then spent much of his time on a turbo, training indoors with the heating turned up, before flying out to Australia following Team Sky’s launch.

The Briton has dominated bike racing in the UK for years, but with a big step up in competition looming he is taking on board the more analytical methods that British Cycling’s coaches have brought to Team Sky. “I think it’s the first time I’ve put a pulse monitor on for ten years,” he said. “I used to use them, but then switched from that to feel.”

“Now we’re on SRMs and pulse rate. Obviously now things are being monitored so you can’t just say; ‘yeah, I feel good.’ They need to know the numbers are there, they need to know you’re going to perform and that you can do a certain job at a race, because there’s not just one person there, there’s 25 guys queuing up who can take your spot.”

Downing is now working with Team Sky’s coach Rod Ellingworth and Sports Director Sean Yates, as he moves from a diet of British racing to the ProTour. “Nothing’s changed, there’s probably just a bit more structure to it, and a bit more feedback. Sean is more ‘on the road’ but you can speak to him if you need anything, and Rod’s put me on the programme through the winter.

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“There’s nothing I’m doing that has made me think, ‘oh, bloody hell, I wish I’d known that years ago.’ It’s much the same but you can always learn a little bit from a coach like Rod. That’s how I’ve trained over the years, I’ve listened to a million people and took the information that I thought worked for me.”

Downing will stay on in Australia after this week’s Tour Down Under before heading over to the Tour of Qatar. After that he is likely be involved with some of the Ardennes classics, and put down Amstel Gold as a big target for 2010.

The task of stepping up to the ProTour after years of predominantly domestic racing isn’t lost on Downing, but he’s been waiting so long for the chance that he’s determined to grab it. “I’ve been knocking on the door for years and I’m finally here, the hard work starts now,” he said.

“Every time I went to Europe I always did a ride and now I think with the right team and with the right backing I can be there for stage [wins], definitely. The objective of the year is the smaller stage races and a look at a few classics as well.”

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External link
Tour Down Under official website