Russell Downing and snake, Tour Down Under 2010

Instead of racing in the heat of Oman, Team Sky's Russell Downing was riding in the rain in South Yorkshire on Monday.

"I'm home because I was first reserve for the cobbled Classics, Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, so when Arvesen broke his collar bone I was put in the team. I could have still raced Oman but Scott (Sunderland-  Sky's senior DS) thought I'd be better getting some rest then build up to them," he told us.

Cycling Weekly met Downing after his first ride on home soil since making his Sky debut, which resulted team's first victory. "That was awesome. After we'd done that David Brailsford told as that no matter what the team went on to do, we were part of British cycling history now, because we were part of Sky's first win," he told us.

Downing did everything he was asked in the Tour Down under and in Qatar to seal his place in the first races of the cobbled Classics season. However, he admits; "I was nervous before Oz. I had finally got where I wanted to be since I was a kid, in a big pro team, and although I knew I could do it, I still had to prove I deserved my place." he says.

He is still nervous, "But it‘s a good nervous now," he says. Even though Het Nieuwsblad is an Everest-like step up from Downing's first race of 2009, the Bikeline 2-Day, he relishes the prospect.  "I can't wait for the cobbles. They are all about racing, and racing is what I do," he says.

Downing is bowled over by the team spirit with Sky, and by the level of professionalism of their backing. We were talking to him as part of an interview that will appear in the Pro Performance section of a future issue of Cycle Sport magazine, about how his preparation has changed now he's in the big league, which he sums up himself by saying, "Before, I thought I trained hard when my legs hurt, and that was it. Now I'm using SRM's, a heart rate monitor and a have a team of people I can talk to about every aspect of what I do."

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