Russell Downing has confirmed that he will remain at Team Sky in 2011after penning a new one-year deal with the team. The Englishman had a solid first season at ProTour level after joining Sky from CandiTV Marshalls Pasta.
“Just before the Tour of Britain, I signed a new one-year contract and I think that situation will suit me because it gives me that pressure to continue to ride well,” Downing told his team’s website. “I’m not going to rest on my laurels, I want to keep improving and do my best for Team Sky.”
Downing’s season ended in frustration when he took the decision not to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. He was one of a number of riders to withdraw from the event amid concerns over the effects of conditions in India on competitors’ health. Downing explained that he opted not to travel so as not to compromise his preparation for next season.
“Taking that verdict not to travel to India meant the end of my year was a big anti-climax, but it wasn't just the news about the conditions out there, I also had to think about my long-term goals and focuses,” Downing said.
"I know you could say this about any race, but if anything had happened out there then it could have put me out of action for a month or so and that would have impacted massively on my preparations for the start of next season with Team Sky.”
That late-season disappointment was one of the few lows in what was otherwise a very successful debut year for Downing at the highest level of the sport. He impressed in winning a stage and the overall classification at the Tour de Wallonie, but it was his stage victory at the Critérium International that garnered the most column inches.
"My first win for Team Sky at the Critérium International confirmed I was worthy of my place and that probably ranks as my highest point of the season,” Downing said. “I'd had a few chances before then at the Tour of Murcia which I perhaps didn't capitalise on, so it was an incredible feeling to eventually get off the mark.
“Last winter I did worry a bit if I was going to be able to step up psychologically. I've always felt I was capable of riding at ProTour level, and that's always been my goal.”
Among Downing’s aims for next season is to compete in a three-week tour and the 32-year-old believes that Team Sky will also be a stronger outfit in 2011, as a result of the experience of its debut season and first taste of the Tour de France.
"We learned a lot from what happened there, and I think everyone on the team now has a far better understanding of where we need to be, and how we need to approach it next time around,” he explained. “With Rigoberto Urán, Xabier Zandio and Alex Dowsett all coming in, the team is looking good in that respect as well.”