Rouleur Classic

Portrait: Alex Dowsett

Posted on
Photographs: Offside/L'Equipe, BrakeThrough Media
Portrait: Alex Dowsett

In his sixth year as a professional in cycling’s top tier, Movistar’s Alex Dowsett is becoming a man for all seasons.
A season-long scrap with the Tour de France winner for Britain’s only place in the Olympic time-trial? Bring it on.
Two Grand Tours if his injury-hit team requires it of him? Sure. And a second crack at the Hour Record? He’s ready, if his employers and sponsors give him the green light.
Dowsett has recently returned from the Volta ao Algarve when we speak, and where a collision with André Greipel left him only slightly injured. He is phlegmatic: he had no way of avoiding Greipel, and given the recent fortune of his team-mates, might consider himself to have escaped lightly.
Jonathan Castroviejo crashed more heavily in the same race, while Adriano Malori continues a slow and carefully controlled recovery from head injuries suffered at the Tour de San Luis.
“Castro’s done a vertebrae at the top of his neck and his elbow, which is nasty, but bones heal,” Dowsett reflects.
“Malori’s crash was more worrying. Any time there’s a head injury, you just don’t know.  He’s been released earlier than I was under the impression he would be. He’s been in contact. Hopefully, he’ll make a full recovery. Things like that put bike racing into perspective.”
When we speak, on the last Friday of February, Dowsett is unsure if he will ride Paris-Nice, as was planned, or be sent instead to Tirreno-Adriatico. He has ridden both races before, and indeed made his team time-trial debut with Movistar at Tirreno, experiencing for the first time a more fluid, but no less effective approach than at the rigidly controlled Team Sky.

In any case, the Giro d’Italia will remain his first big goal of the season. The Giro holds happy memories: it was in Saltara at the 2013 race where he won his first stage in a Grand Tour, seeing off the challenge of Bradley Wiggins, among others, in the race of truth. Does it remain his greatest triumph?
“It’s up there,” he says, in characteristically laid back fashion. “I guess on paper it’s one of the biggest, but there are other wins that in my mind have more emotional impact.”
We might guess at which, but the Hour Record, set last May, but broken a month later by Wiggins, would surely fit Dowsett’s description.
Anyone present in the Manchester velodrome will not easily forget the occasion. Dowsett followed a very conservative strategy, turning up the wick bit by bit in the second 30 minutes, getting faster and faster as the clock ticked down, to the delight of the crowd.
Few were left in any doubt that Dowsett could have ridden further, but the rider says if  he makes a second attempt (and it remains a big ‘if’) he will ride with similar self control.
“I got the Hour Record,” he reflects. “Great, job done, but I could have gone further.”
“I’m not saying by any stretch that I could have gone further than Wiggins. I just know that I could have gone further, and to have put in all the training and not achieved my own potential, it was quite… “ He tails off.
“If I had my time again, I would have done the same thing, and if we go for Wiggins’ record, it’s likely to be the same conservative strategy, where we ride to break it, but break it by a small margin.”

Whether such a packed schedule will offer space for such a commitment remains to be seen. We return to his ravaged Movistar squad. With Malori and Castroviejo badly injured, the Spanish squad’s plans for the season have already been altered.
“With Castro and Malori as they are,  you don’t know what’s going to happen with selection for the Tour. It’s super difficult for the team.”
Dowsett describes his injured team-mates as “massive talents” and solid selections for the Tour de France, but his ready to do Grand Tour duty in France as well as Italy, should the need arise.
“In previous years, I would have said no. But I felt good this winter and at stage races already this year I felt I could do more days, so maybe I could [ride the Giro and the Tour]. In some respects, a Grand Tour can leave you on your knees, and in others it can leave you firing on all cylinders.”
The tests at the Giro this year will suit him, Dowsett concedes, but the longer-term purpose is to prepare him for the time-trial at the Olympic Games. Great Britain has only one slot in the men’s ITT in Rio, after both Dowsett and 140 failed to record top 10 finishes last year at the World Championships in Kentucky.
His former Sky team-mate Chris Froome will start the season as favourite for that single slot, especially given the hilly nature of the course in Rio, but Dowsett is prepared to fight for the place and to produce performances at the Giro that will give British Cycling something to think about.

“All I know is that I need to lose a bit of weight, and I am losing it. I need to be at the top of my game. I’ve got one of the hardest oppositions in the world with Chris Froome, but I’m not going to sit here and just accept that he’s going to go, no matter how up against it I am.
“My plan is to win one or both of the time-trials at the Giro and make the decision for the selectors as hard as possible.”
He admits that he has not thought as far ahead as this year’s World Championships in Qatar, other than to consider how he might help Mark Cavendish in the road race. Cycling’s late season return to Doha and the surrounding desert is still some way off: the Olympic Games will delay the Worlds until October.
“Cav is a strong option for Qatar and it’s a course where I’d be good to help him,” Dowsett says. “Then, on the other hand, I’ve got the Hour Record to think about.”
2016 holds much for Dowsett, a rider whose excellence is almost taken for granted. Like Dan Martin, who has won Monument Classics without entering the wider public conscious, Dowsett has quietly assembled a career that includes an Hour Record, a Grand Tour stage win, overall victory in a major stage race, and a Commonwealth title.
He will attempt to land even bigger prizes in 2016. Friendly and garrulous off the bike, and ferociously determined on it, his ascendancy to cycling’s highest echelon, should it come, would be warmly welcomed.
Alex Dowsett is an ambassador for PedalSure, sponsors of the 2015/16 Revolution Series

Leave a Reply