AFTER 30 years in his beloved sport of cycling, Dean Downing has spoken of his delight at helping to bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014.
The Thurcroft cyclist, a professional of eight years, helped scout the route for the second stage of the Tour, which will travel from York to Sheffield.
And having attended the glitzy launch event in Leeds last week, Madison Genesis Continental professional Downing can’t wait to see the world’s most famous cycle race visit his home county.
“It’s great, the biggest race in the world coming to one of the most beautiful areas, it will be a lot of fun,” he told the Guardian.
“I was lucky enough to get invited to the launch celebrations and it was really good to see all the people who’ve put it together for Yorkshire,” he said.
“I was asked to do some route recceing to put to the organisers back in August, and I took a look at the routes as a professional cyclist – to see if they were tough enough and if you could get riders down the roads.”
“The second stage from York to Sheffield is the route I rode over a couple of days, so it’s pretty exciting for me to be involved in that way.”
Having taken notes and filmed sections of stage two, which begins in York and heads west to Keighley before turning south via Haworth and Huddersfield before finishing in Sheffield, Downing is well qualified to give an insight into what the world’s top cyclists can expect on 6th July 2014.
The former Rapha Condor Sharp pro, twice a British Criterium Champion, revealed: “The second stage will be the toughest.”
“Some of the Tour de France guys will look at it and think it doesn’t go very high, but the roads are up and down all day.”
“The last 60 to 70km is short and sharp with climbs more like the Tour of Flanders.”
“They’re only a kilometre long but very steep climbs, I think we’ll see some time gaps, and it’s only on the second day.”
With the sport he’s been involved in since the age of eight in rude health, thanks to Olympic success and the emergence of national heroes like Bradley Wiggins, Downing sees the Tour adding to an already bright future in Yorkshire.
“Gary Verity (chief executive, Welcome to Yorkshire) suggested that 98 per cent of Yorkshire’s population will be just two hours commute from the route, so there will be massive interest in it.”
“This region does really well for cycling, there’s quite a few famous faces.”
“And hopefully some of the young guys like Ben Swift will get selected to ride it, and my brother Russ, with his team NetApp-Endura hoping to be there.”
A keen evangelist for cycling, Downing – who turned 38 on Thursday this week – has already begun spreading word about the Tour’s arrival in schools.
He hopes the sight of elite cyclists on local roads will spark a passion for the sport in the younger generations, and produce Yorkshire’s next batch of top professionals.
“It’s great for local cyclists but also good for schools in the region.”
“I’ve done a little bit of work going into schools in the Leeds area, talking about cycling, the Olympics and the Tour.”
“With the GB Olympians getting gold medals, cycling is in a good way and it’s inspirational for kids.”
“The Tour could lead to anything, it could definitely breed success in Yorkshire, it inspires me and I’ve been racing for a long, long time. Thirty years.”
“I love telling kids about the sport, I tell them as long as they enjoy it, it’s a great sport to be involved in.”