One of the standout performances during the 2013 Giro was Alex Dowsett’s (Movistar & GB) winning ride in the brutal Stage Eight 55 kilometre time trial ahead of all the ‘Bigs’ – to prove categorically that there is; ‘life after Sky,’
Dowsett has shown his class over the years, shining in each level of his career.
He was British junior time trial champion in 2005 and 2006 before moving up to take the U23 title in the same discipline in 2008 and 2009.
It was also in 2009 that he gained his first big international result with seventh in the world U23 TT championships.
That ride was followed by a 2010 season with the Trek-Livestrong U23 squad, where he continued his progression.
He won the European time trial championship, nabbed silver in the Commonwealth Games time trial and took victory in the U23 Chrono des Nations.
Unsurprisingly, Sky was interested and snapped him up.
In 2011 he won the super-fast Smithfield nocturne criterium in London; was fifth in the Tour of Denmark; won a stage and was second on GC in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes; took the British elite time trial championship, won the time trial in the Tour of Britain and rounded his season off with third in the Chrono des Nations behind world champion Tony Martin.
Last season, still with Sky, he took the British time trial title again, was second to a rampant Ian Stannard in the road race champs, took eighth on the tough Valkenburg course in the Worlds TT and was second in the Duo Normand with Luke Rowe.
We spoke to Alex about his brilliant win, life after Sky and how his Spanish is coming along shortly before he headed off to ride the Route du Sud.
Congratulations on the Giro stage, Alex; a brilliant ride – that course looked savage, did you recce it?
“Nah, I rode the first 10 K and drove the first 20 K in the car; otherwise I didn’t see it beforehand. I know that Wiggins recce-ed the full course and it would have been to my advantage to do the same.
“But having said that if I’d seen the climb then maybe I wouldn’t have gone out so fast?
“On that last climb Wiggins took a lot of time back on me but I had a buffer on him with going out as fast as I did.
“He rode that last climb very strongly – but I won the stage!”
Did you ride on watts?
“I thought I would – but in the event I had to throw that out the window and ride on ‘feel’ because my watts were so low.
“Remember you’re eight days into a tough stage race – so I ended up just tapping away as hard as I could.”
How about that wait in the hot seat?
“I’m used to that; even from way back in my schoolboy days – but that doesn’t make it any less excruciating!2
Movistar management must be chuffed?
“We won four stages, three of those in a row so the boss is over the moon; and of course, the team is buzzing.”
You were one of the few to start the mountain time trial on a TT bike…
“I started on it but there was a ghost in the electrics, the gears worked perfectly before the start and when we checked them after the race; but when I rolled down the ramp they just didn’t work – so I had to change to my road bike.
“It was a mentality thing – I’m a TT specialist and didn’t want to ride the same bike as the climbers.
“It was a gamble, there were a couple of pretty fast parts on the course – but being on the TT bike wouldn’t have gained you much time.”
Still on Pinarello.
“Yeah, they’re good bikes and I like Campag equipment – I have a Graal for the TT’s but think I’ll be getting one of the new Bolides.”
Did you have the preparation for the Giro you would have liked?
“Pretty much, I didn’t have the best of winters but I had a good block of training before it in Mallorca.”
They say you come out of your first Grand Tour a new rider?
“I seem to have recovered well, I’ve ridden a couple of club ‘10’s here in Essex and I can get my heart rate up without any problems.
“And I was second in the Smithfield Nocturne criterium against the home guys who are specialists in that kind of event – so I’ve obviously recovered well and have good shape.
“I’m riding the Route du Sud next so it’ll be interesting to see how I’m going there.”
You’re still based in Essex, is the team OK with that?
“It works well for me; there are so many airports within a tight radius for me.
“The team would be happier if I lived in Spain but I prefer Essex.
“I don’t want to be a rider who’s mediocre at everything; I’m a time trial specialist and it suits me to live here because there are so many local events which I can use as preparation.”
How’s the Spanish going?
“I’ve been taking regular lessons in England I can now understand a good deal – more than I can speak.
“I room with Pablo Lastras, he speaks English but I think the team has him under instructions not to speak it too much in order to force me to speak Spanish!”
How does the Movistar culture compare to that of Sky?
“It’s a bit more relaxed, more of a family atmosphere whilst Sky is more regimented – there’s something to be said for both approaches.
“But there’s still the same, ‘no stone unturned’ attitude – Sky started the trend to towards making sure all the boxes are ticked and all of the other big teams have picked up on that.
“The sport is cleaner now and Sky has set a benchmark for doing absolutely everything properly which everyone else is trying to copy.”
Will we see you at the Nationals?
“Yes, I hope to get up to Glasgow as quickly as I can after the Route du Sud.
“I want to drive up there in good time, hopefully the Tuesday with the TT on the Thursday.”
And do you still run that nice Jaguar sports?
“No, the Jaguar was a great car but I got a good deal on a Mercedes C63 AMG, which is a nice machine, too.”
The Worlds must be a big goal after eighth, last year?
“Hopefully I’ll get selected; I’ve heard it’s a bit of a ‘dull’ course, featureless, not technical and ideal for Tony Martin.
“The team has given me freedom to prepare as I want – I shan’t be riding the Vuelta; that would too much.”
The TTT must be a goal for Movistar?
“We’ve gone well in them all – Movistar won the TTT in the Vuelta last season and we’ve been second in the Tirreno and Giro TTT’s this season, so yes, we think we can give QuickStep a run for their money.”
There’s been negative chat on the forums about you joining Valverde – by association a ‘dirty’ team; that must upset you?
“I can understand why people might say that; but it’s short sighted.
“I’m clean and I always will be.
“There’s plenty of teams with riders with a history, many have more such riders than we do, for sure.
“I have to trust that my team mates are clean, and there are fewer and fewer riders now in the peloton who have a ‘past.’
“If it was down to me, I’d give riders who are caught for drugs offences life time bans – if you’re 25 then you can be back at 27 and not even have reached your peak as a rider.
“What I would say to the doubters is; “have faith in me.””
What do you miss about Sky?
“I made a lot of friends on the team and on the smaller races which we rode we had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs.
“But Movistar have done exactly what they said they would and given me a programme where I’m riding bigger races.
“That’s vindicated my move – and I’m happy to have repaid that faith with my Giro stage win.”