Former Sheffield Hallam University student Dean Downing is a professional cyclist with the Madison Genesis team, and will take to the streets of Sheffield on July 24 when the Claremont Sheffield Grand Prix returns for the second year.
Dean, aged 38, grew up in Thurcroft and studied for a degree in construction management before swapping buildings for bikes. He turned professional in 2004.
He is seven times British Champion, and also represented the Great Britain track team at the World Cup and World Championships in 2004. He lives in Wickersley, Rotherham, with wife Katy, four-year-old daughter Lily and their Labrador dog Beau.
The great outdoors
For cyclists, Sheffield is just about perfect. Not only is it a very sporty city, but some of the routes I ride during my training have spectacular views. And the seven hills the city’s built on obviously help add interest to any bike ride!
The city’s proximity to the Peak District and Derbyshire is great, too. No training route is ever really the same and I love to get out and cycle down little country lanes and beautiful open roads – there are still parts of Baslow and Bakewell I’m exploring now.
The Peace Gardens hold a very special place in my heart – not only do I associate them with summertime in Sheffield when I was at university, and lazy weekends going there to chill out, but when I turned professional I did one of my first photo shoots there.
It was a promotional photo shoot for the Tour of Britain, which had a stage finish into Sheffield in 2005. To pose with my brother Russell in glorious weather in a place I so strongly associate with home was wonderful.
Like any athlete, I have had my fair share of illness and injury – including breaking my collar bone on two different occasions. The second time it happened, two years ago, it was the other side to where I had broken it before and I didn’t just fracture it – I snapped it in half.
It could have been a career-ending injury and I had to stop training while I sought treatment.
Fortunately, at the time I was in the Rapha Condor Sharp cycling team which was sponsored by Claremont Hospital. The hospital offers a support service to professional cyclists through its Sports Medicine Service and I was seen by a specialist. Within three weeks I was back on my bike.
I was at college when Meadowhall was being built and I remember it clearly. I found it fascinating, probably because of my academic interest at the time thanks to my construction management course.
But as someone born in South Yorkshire, I was also quite proud that the - then - biggest shopping centre in the UK was being built in my home city. It was a real accolade for Sheffield.
Today as a busy dad, it is still somewhere I visit quite a lot to pick up bits and pieces .
Rother Valley Country Park
I love getting out to Rother Valley Country Park with the family. We all head out there – my wife, daughter and the dog – and we enjoy walking around the park. My little girl Lily now has her own bike too so we can all cycle round the park together. We sometimes take a picnic and have a family day out. It’s a nice way to get away from the stress of the cycling season and to just relax.
When my wife and I first started dating we used to eat at Nonna’s on Ecclesall Road a lot. The people who ran it were really friendly and the food always superb. They are very keen on cycling and very supportive of local events.