The 28-year-old said the 94.7km road race was one of the biggest in the country, with many people knowing about it and recognising its importance, and this had often worked in his favour.
“When you win a race like this, suddenly a lot more people know who you are, which is great for gaining contacts and networking,” said Downes.
“It’s also been beneficial for picking up sponsors because people want to be associated with something that has that sort of exposure.”
The TEG Procycling rider added that it had elevated his status. Whereas before not many people knew who he was, after claiming the title suddenly there was a new name on the list of potential race winners.
“This in turn does create a little bit more pressure going into other races, but at the same time for other teams you become a slightly bigger threat.
“The win opened a door where I was able to sign with a continental team moving into the 2019 season.
“People also want to know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and what tips you have for them to improve their cycling. So I’ve been able to capitalise on that and create some opportunity for myself.”
Downes said the early part of the season was a little slow, with a few illnesses not helping matters, but things then began to improve.
“We went to Morocco and I got a fourth place in the GP Oued Eddahab in Tan-Tan, a UCI race, and put in a strong performance in Tenerife,” said Downes, who finished 17th in the Vuelta Ciclista a La Isle De Tenerife.
“Tenerife was great. We’ve never really experienced that sort of riding where you have up to 40km of pure climbing. It was also great to see where some of the World Tour pros go to train and what they do to prepare for these big Grand Tours.
“To get exposed to that and to do some racing in that sort of environment was great.”
He felt though that being in a continental team in this country was “quite a big challenge”.
“It’s only once you get involved with it that you realise the magnitude of what you’ve undertaken.
“We don’t really have the race calendar here to be able to support a continental calendar, so that becomes difficult because then you have to be travelling abroad.
“There are a few races that cover your expenses. However, for the most part for a lot of the events you still need to pay for flights as well as medical and travel insurance. It adds up and can be expensive.”
However throughout this time Downes felt he had grown as a cyclist.
“We’re learning on a constant basis. It doesn’t really matter what we’re doing.
“There are a lot of aspects in the sport that need to be considered to make you an all-round athlete. From things like technical skills, tactical skills within a race, environmental aspects and organisational skills to understanding what is the right thing to eat and when and how much you should eat.
“There are lots of factors that come into being a cyclist, and managing all these is definitely something to be learnt.”
Downes said he felt excited and motivated ahead of this weekend’s race, which starts at Riversands Commercial Park.
“The rest of the team are also there. They’re looking really good and are excited to race. We go into every race with the overall objective to win.
“Claiming a second title would be really special. I mean, winning one is great already. It’s always more difficult to win a second time though.”
Regarding the new season, he said he was always looking to improve and continue developing himself as a cyclist and athlete.
“The team are looking to be based in Europe for quite a big portion of next year so there are some interesting and exciting things to come.”