Alex Dowsett : Mountains, TT’s & Leadouts

One of the special guests at the Tour of Britain launch in London last week was Team Sky rider, Alex Dowsett and VeloUK spoke to him about his experience in the Spanish stage race, Vuelta a Castilla y Leon 2011.

The Time Trial
“The time trial was technically brilliant, absolutely incredible. The first two k were a mixture of pave and concentrate, we may as well have been riding round Covent Garden. I have never had to handle my time trial bike so carefully. I think bike handling is one of my strong points and I wanted to make the most of it because on the other parts of the course there were real long drags and I knew the likes of Contador were going to pull time out of me on those sections.”

“I definitely had the rear wheel steeping out on me at some points and some times I felt both wheels sliding across the pave so I did make the most of it. When I hit the drags, I did the best I could and didn’t have any more to give. I put Jerome Coppel behind me and he’s beaten me in every Time Trial so far this year. I was close to Contador (19 seconds) and Richie Porte is also a talent in this event too so I was pleased with the result.”

“I am really happy with where  I am right now. I had a fantastic winters training which is largely down to Sky because when the weather was bad, we were shipped off to Majorca and I have worked really well with my coach Paul (Manning).”

Train Spotting
Talking about the Sky leadout train, Alex says “It looks a lot scarier on TV than it does on the road. I watched them back on TV and it is quite shocking to see the speed we’re going at. We’re thinking watching it played back, flippin heck, surely that isn’t us.”

“The first day I wasn’t firing on all cylinders, not sure why but form is a funny think like that. I had a lot to thank Pete (Kennaugh)  for that day because he was firing on all cylinders and a few more. Froomee did some of his turn, and then I did some of mine and I think Pete could tell I was struggling so he gave me a turn and effectively did half my lead-out before he did his own.”

“Then the second day, it felt like I had a new pair of legs. I accelerated out of a dead turn with two k to go and took it to 600 metres to go for one of biggest turns yet and Pete took over and then Swifty. It is such a buzz being part of that leadout train.”

“We learn a lot about what goes on Swifty and Russell because they are the ones that has everyone snapping at their heels. Russell had a hard time being squeezed out on a few corners where as those us doing the earlier turns at the front, there isn’t generally anyone around us and we‘re unaware of the carnage going on behind us.”

“The worst bit for a lead out is the one with 30k to go until 5k to go. During that time, everyone is trying to be near the front  but not on the front and you’re trying to stay at the front, stay with your team, look after your sprinter all at the same time while spending as little energy as possible. Once Swifty or Russell say, lets go, that’s when its like job done because the next bit, I know I have the legs to do it and is the easy part.”

“And when the team wins (as did Ben Swift on the final stage),  it is amazing.”

Asked if the lack of race radios hinders the getting together of the team at the front, Alex replied “no, not really. We all know what we are doing and when it comes together and it just clicks. You can go through every scenario beforehand but when its crunch time, its different.”

“Like you may end up on the front a little earlier than you had planned to so you swap off a bit before you really hit it. Radios don’t make that much of a difference in that respect and I’m used to not having radios. They were banned when I was under 23 and have been banned when I turned pro. I have hardly raced with them.”

“I am quite comfortable asking questions, no matter how silly it may seem, and there is a lot of communication between  the team on the road. For instance, I was asking Dario and Nico what food to take on a race because I have done a few stage races now but I was finding I was putting on weight during races so I am still learning.”

“The mountain day was a survival day for sure. We knew there was a 16 per cent climb coming but they failed to tell us that the tarmac wasn’t dry and so it was like riding up a steep climb that was covered in Pritt Stick! I was slightly over geared with a 42 x 27 but when ever I go into mountain stages, its damage limitation.”

“That stage too, there was a bit of a cross wind at the start and we really took everyone by surprise and hit it hard in the cross winds and split the group to pieces but unfortunately, our leader Morris Possoni  unbeknown to us, as we had no radios, he went down early on when a lad in front of him hit  a palm tree on the road.”

“So, unfortunately, once we had split it, we had to sit up and wait for everything to come back together. So it was then case of riding to the climbs and then making sure Dario and Chris Frome (Morris had pulled out) were well placed for the climb.”

Tags: ,