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Deano on Tour - Haute Route

Former professional, UK cycling legend and now Assistant Manager for the JLT Condor team, Dean Downing writes exclusively for Leigh Day, giving his views on his recovery and preparing to tackle Haute Route.

17th July 2015 was a pretty bad day out on my bike.

As many of you will know I went for a bike ride and ended up in an ambulance on my way to hospital.

Diagnosis, torn ligaments in my left knee.

In the week after my accident a friend of mine James Golding was riding an event called Haute Route, James was riding the triple crown, 3 weeks riding across the Pyrenees, Alps and Dolomites mountains.

So I'm sat on my sofa watching TV and I get a call from James whilst he is on his bike riding up the Col du Tourmalet, one of the most famous climbs in Tour de France history.

He just heard about my accident and waited to see how I was doing.

He called me over the next few weeks to catch up and suggested to me that it would be good for my rehab to sign up and do one week in the Haute Route in the summer of 2016.

I really did think he was crazy but I thought what the hell, I can always pull out if I'm not fit enough.

From July until October I was on crutches and struggling to even walk properly, I just hopped around, I started with my Physio sessions and at the end of October I rode my bike for the first time. 

Two hours of joy and a lot of pain, everywhere.

The Physio went well and come the new year I was getting out on my bike 3 to 4 times a week, but I was pretty unfit and doubting whether I had bitten off a bit more than I could handle.

My left leg was still considerably weaker than my right and every week of riding I did, I seemed to injure my hips and lower back.

Then came the busy periods on the racing calendar with the JLT Condor team, February, March and April my riding was very up and down and my fitness kind of stalled a bit. Again I was doubting what I had signed up for.

May and June came around so quickly and after 11 months of rehab and bike riding I really felt I hadn't moved very far forward with my fitness. If anything I really was unsure about whether I had prepared properly for this big challenge across the Tour de France terrain.

However my injury was pretty much healed, but an 8 week block of racing where I was away from home and away from my bike had hit me hard. Hotel living, late nights, bad food and quite a few beers celebrating the JLT Condor lads success had taken its toll on my body.

I was back to square one with my fitness and I had gained a few kgs along the way, 6 kg to be precise.

Since the beginning of July I've worked really hard managing my time around my work in the cycling industry, coaching and riding with clients has spurred me on to get out there and train properly.

The last 7 weeks my diet has been that of a Pro Cyclist and so have some of my training weeks, but I couldn't have done this without the support of my friends and family. Especially my wife Katy and 2 kiddies Lily and Isaac.

I was never great at climbing mountains when I was a pro racer, so my week in the Pyrenees is going to be a tough one, I know that.

What I do know, is that I feel confident that I'm going to have a great time with James Golding and my best Buddy John Smith, who have been there for me in the last 12 months.

Let's go climbing.  

Dean will be reporting back on his Pyrannean adventures for Leigh day on his return

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