In the first of four short films we look at personalities, the planning and the plotting that make up JLT Condor as they build towards Britain’s biggest stage race, The Tour of Britain 2016.
Russell Downing is a name that has featured on results sheets around the world for over three decades. Hailing from Yorkshire he is made of tough northern grit. As a boy he cut his teeth grass-track racing and beating his big brother.
The former Team Sky rider has had several pivotal career moments, winning the Tour of Ireland in 2009. The same year as Lance Armstrong decided to go on a comeback mission, Downing dug in and won the opening stage in Ireland whilst the Texan called it quits.
In 2014, he placed fourth in the Commonwealth Games and despite his age has been at the sharp end of sprints for JLT Condor, but his key role is organising the riders on the road.
“Russell is a man that can always surprise, if something goes wrong in the sprint Russ is there without hesitation taking it on and not letting the opportunity go to waste.” explained John Herety.
“That’s why Russ is the team leader for our stage race squad, but if he has to take it up and ride a criterium he works for others and makes the action happen.”
Despite completing the Giro d’Italia, he still marks Tour of Britain as a formidable race. “It has one of the the most competitive fields in bike racing.” says Russ. “In years gone by, organisers had to utilise roads that used less traffic and finished in smaller cities. Now the have the pick of the British countryside, bad news is they pick all the tough climbs in Britain.”
This year Tour of Britain
The race features many key climbs and hard roads, the third stage, a 182km ride from Congleton to Tatton Park, Knutsford, takes in the Cat and Fiddle Climb, just over six and a half miles of relatively gentle gradient maxing out at 8 per cent. Then there are two stages taking in parts of Wales, the first from Denbigh to Builth Wells and then from Aberdare back into England and a stage finish in Bath. Downing believes there are stages for JLT Condor riders to shine against a world class field. “We have shown we can organise ourselves in sprints. We’ve taken top 10 positions in the Tour of Yorkshire and were close in Ride London. We just have to keep our heads.”
This year’s race, from 4 to 11 September, is likely to be decided in a key 26-hour period on the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning that includes three stages in the south-west which should truly stretch the riders’ says Downing. “Friday’s summit finish on Dartmoor is followed by a 15km time trial in Bristol. It will be tough to recover.”
All eight stages will be broadcast live on ITV4.
Sunday 4 September Glasgow-Castle Douglas 168km
Monday Carlisle-Kendal 195km
Tuesday Congleton-Tatton Park 182km
Wednesday Denbigh-Builth Wells 217km
Thursday Aberdare-Bath 205km
Friday Sidmouth-Haytor 150km
Saturday Morning: time trial, Bristol, 15km; afternoon, circuit race Bristol, 76.5km
Sunday 11 September Circuit race, London, 100km