British national champions recall how they won their stripes, the pride in wearing them for the season and the effect it had on the rest of their careers. Podium fines, finish line crashes, curious combines, white shorts and unlikely alliances – these are the stories behind the jerseys.
Russell Downing (2005)
Riding the Tour of Britain with Recycling that year was the highlight. Got in the break into Sheffield, finished third. Home tour, home crowd, with the national champs kit on. It was good to show off the jersey.
I went for the white shorts too – got the piss taken out of me, of course. I booked a holiday after the nationals, so the first time I put my kit on, I was nicely tanned and it worked well. But the year after, I lived in Belgium. I had four pairs of shorts and there would always be some in a bucket soaking in Vanish or whatever. Maybe not a great idea in Belgium, but I’d called it so I went with it.
You get to wear the stripes on your jersey for the rest of your career, although the two years I was at Sky, they didn’t have them, which was a bit gutting. There was some problem, but it still gives me goosebumps thinking about that finish however many years ago it was.