Russell Downing, out of contract with Team Sky at the end of the 2011 season, will ride for Scotland-based Endura Racing next season. The Yorkshireman, who joined Team Sky ahead of its debut in 2010, was the first British rider to win a race for the team when he took a stage of that year's Criterium International.
The 2005 national road race champion had signed for Team Sky from CandiTV's-Marshall Pasta, with whom he won the overall title of the Tour of Ireland in 2009, a race whose line-up included seven-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong.
This season, taking part in his one and only Grand Tour for Team Sky, Downing lived up to the stereotype of the tough, no-nonsense Yorkshireman by climbing back up to the road and getting back on his bike to complete a stage after he had been thrown 60 feet into a ravine, suffering several broken ribs.
Downing returns to the domestic scene with what looks like being a very strong Endura Racing line-up for 2012, with some top riders poached from rivals Motorpoint and Rapha Condor Sharp including Ian Bibby and Jonny McEvoy from the former and Dean Windsor, Jon Tiernan-Locke and Zak Dempster from the latter.
“I’m really excited about joing Endura Racing for 2012 after a couple of great years with Sky," said the 33-year-old, who followed older brother Dean into the sport. "I’ve been speaking to Brian Smith [Endura Racing's General Manager] for several months now about the team and it’s great to finally put pen to paper.
“Endura Racing have an impressive looking race schedule for 2012 and I’m looking to get back to winning ways, to help build on the what the team achieved in 2011. I’ve enjoyed riding at UCI World Tour level and have gained a lot of experience at some of the biggest races in cycling. I’m looking forward to pass that experience on to the younger riders on the squad.”
Jim McFarlane, Endura Racing owner commented: “Russ is an iconic British rider with immense talent and a strong following on the domestic scene; it will be great to see him ride and win again in the UK whilst still representing the team in many of the continental stage races that Endura Racing has on its schedule for 2012.
“His individual talent obviously adds even more strength to the team for next year but we’re also looking forward to having his input in nurturing and developing young talent in the team so they can benefit from his experience.”
Brian Smith, himself a former national road champion, added: “I would have loved to see Russ stay at World Tour level as he deserves but I think Endura Racing is the perfect team for him.
“Russ is a winner and i am hoping he can lead the team by example by winning in Europe. We want to keep building on our performance levels and to have someone with the experience and respect of Russ I’m more than confident 2012 with be a hugely successful year for Endura Racing. The path from a Scottish club team to a UCI Professional Continental team is looking more likely now.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.