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Downing hopes for good performance at Tour of Britain

Russell Downing (Sky) leads the peloton.

Russell Downing (Sky) leads the peloton. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)

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."

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Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.

He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi

His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.

Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.