Russell Downing has vowed to continue racing despite Team Sky not choosing to renew his contract for 2012. The 33-year-old faces a race against time as he tries to secure a WorldTour spot for next year, but confirmed to Cyclingnews that he would consider racing in the UK in order or sustain his professional career.
"I've not my contract renewed with Sky for next year and I've not got anything planned or worked out at the moment," Downing told Cyclingnews.
"It's pretty disappointing to be honest. I know the team is going bigger and better, but for two years I've done the job asked of me and this year I sacrificed my ride a lot of times. Last year I had a couple of chances in races and took them, which was brilliant. This year I've not had that many chances and had to work for others and that's what I've done. The team has gone bigger in some ways but it's gone smaller in terms of numbers and I've no longer got a contract," he said.
Sky formed at the start of 2010 with Downing a late signing after a superb win the Tour of Ireland, in which the then-domestic rider held off a number of ProTour teams - almost single-handedly - to take the win. His debut season with Sky was a success two: he took four wins including a stage in the Criterium International. He was retained for 2011 and raced the first Grand Tour of his career.
Downing has yet to record a win this season, but insisted to Cyclingnews that he has performed well, sacrificing himself whenever the team required it. Yet with Sky losing a number of riders, and having the likes of Richie Porte and Mark Cavendish enter the frame, Downing's position was under jeopardy.
"A lot of things have been going on with riders shuffling around and Cavendish coming and all of that. There's been a lot of concentration on that and I've been trying to get a decision. Now I have it. I don't think Cav coming meant there wasn't a place for me though."
"They were giving me a percentage chance of getting a contract and it's not really progressed since there, and to hear now that I don't have one is disappointing. The last two years for me have proved that I should have raced at the top level for the last few years and at the WorldTour level."
With a number of other riders also struggling to find spots for 2012 Downing might be forced to downgrade his ambitions and look beyond the WorldTour. The only certainty is that the Sky rider isn't ready to hang up his wheels just yet. Having fought tooth and nail in the UK and US domestic scenes for the majority of his career he has considered a return that familiarity.
"I've proved to people that I can do it at this level and I'd love to continue at this level. Racing is what I love doing and I want to keep racing at the highest level. I can't hold out forever though in the hope that a spot comes up so I'll have to make a hard decision in the next couple of weeks and see what cards are on the table. At the moment though, there aren't many."
"I'd definitely do that. I'm not going to stop racing and I love riding my bike. I've learnt a hell of a lot about myself in the last two years and take that to a lot of teams in terms of experience."