British rider in contract negotiations after good year
Russell Downing (Team Sky) began his home tour on Saturday with the added incentive of winning a new contract for 2011. The Englishman, who has four wins to his name this season, began the Tour of Britain by claiming four bonus seconds in intermediate sprints before finishing ninth in Blackpool.
His job at the finish had been to lead out Greg Henderson, but Downing said, "We didn't get it right today," as the New Zealander finished third behind stage winner Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia).
"It almost worked but not quite," said Downing. "Just as I was about to finish my turn, the guys went on the left and Hendy got pinned on the right. He was coming back at the end but they got the jump on him."
Downing's snaffling of bonus seconds suggests he has his eye on the overall classification this week, after going close in recent years. But the 32-year-old has the bigger goal of trying to land an extended deal with Team Sky, with his one-year contract now in its final months.
"It's in negotiations at the moment," said Downing. "I'd say a solid ride here should settle it. I'm leaving it to Phil Griffiths, who negotiated for me last year, but I'd like to think I'm in a strong position.
"It's been a long year, but a really good one. If someone had said I'd get four wins, and some seconds and third and also contribute to the team effort, I'd have been delighted.
"It'd be nice to get a longer deal," Downing said. "It's taken me a while to get here [to a major team], and I want to stay at this level for a few years. I'm 32 but I'm not a 32-year-old who's ridden loads of Grand Tours. I'd say I'm pretty fresh."