With his current contract set to expire at the end of the season Russell Downing (Team Sky) has an uncertain few months ahead of him. The 32-year-old pro has signed two one-year deals with Sky in the last two seasons but is unsure if he will fit into the team’s plans for next year.
“I’m on a one-year deal with Sky, like I was last year, so I’m not quite sure what’s happening at the moment. There are big things happening within Sky and I’m not sure where that leaves me in the team really,” Downing told Cyclingnews.
Speculation is rife with a number of riders being linked to Sky. So far the team has only announced riders they have retained for next year but a number of signings are expected, with Mark Cavendish and Riche Porte both linked to the squad. Should Cavendish sign he would likely take at least one HTC teammate with him, preferably Bernhard Eisel. While Downing would welcome improvements to the team, he would also dearly like to remain on their books.
“It might be a strange next month or so with who Sky actually sign and if I fit into the picture. I’d love to stay with Sky, I’ve had a great couple of years but if there’s no place there, there’s no place and I can't force Sky into giving me another contract. I want to continue racing at this high level and over the last two years I’ve proved to myself and few people this is where I should be racing.”
Downing has had a solid year and although he has missed out on a win this year, he fulfilled a life-time ambition this spring when he raced and completed his first grand tour at the Giro d’Italia. He had strong form in the final week of the race but crashed with two stages to go. The injuries incurred affected his health but now fully recovered, he is keen to use the final few races of the year to show Sky and any other prospective suitors that he can compete at the highest level.
“The main objective was to ride a grand tour and I probably picked the hardest one to do. Finally I got through that and finished it with good legs. I got an 8th in the last week that showed I was in good shape and I did a hell of a lot of work for the team in the sprints. Then obviously I crashed with two days to go and broke my ribs and sternum. I finished the race coughing blood and in a bit of a mess.”
“It’s taken me a while to get over it and I had to race again two weeks later, and I just felt I had restricted breathing and power. I took some time off and the ribs are all good now.
Downing is competing in the Tour of Denmark this week and has a number of one-day and short stages races left.
“Now it’s just about staying focused. We’ve got a few classics coming up and I’ll try and target them. I’ve had my race programme and it’s changed a bit with injuries and people coming back to fitness. So at the minute I’ve not got a huge amount of racing, but what I do have there are a few good opportunities. I’ve got to stay focused.”