TalkingShop: Dogged Dowsett Digs In

Gordon Wiseman writes … Team Sky’s Essex born pro cyclist Alex Dowsett endured a difficult opening to his 2012 racing campaign – one he hopes will lead him to London’s Summer Olympics – in scorching heat at the Tour Down Under.


The over 800km race, split into six stages, was based around the South Australian capital of Adelaide and was designed to give sprinters and all-rounders an opportunity to shine in this prestigious opening race to the World Tour calendar.

With home boy Mick Rogers and Dowsett’s Norwegian room-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen in the Team Sky line-up, and both more than capable of mounting the winner’s podium, Dowsett knew that his role throughout the race would be to work for the two team leaders.

But the searing heat that featured throughout the 149km first stage was set to disrupt his plans despite having come through a very structured and successful winter training programme.

“I flew to Australia with Boasson Hagen on 2 January and we had 1 ½ weeks solid training before the race started that included checking out some of the course.  And rooming with Edvald was great as we were able to plan what we were doing.”

That opening stage was run off in temperatures over 40 degrees.  “Even the Aussie riders were complaining” explained Alex.  “I got heatstroke.  As a result, after the stage I was throwing up and couldn’t get anything back into my system.

“I won the European U23 time trial champs in 2010 in similar conditions and they had the same effect on me.  I think I should throw more water over myself in those conditions to cool down.  I was drinking loads but sometimes it just goes straight through you.  After the stage my jersey was white with salt stains”.

Not being able to eat and losing sleep after stage one meant that from that point onwards Alex was playing catch-up, trying to rebuild his food reserves and recover from the lack of proper rest.

On stage 2 Alex lost a lot of time, trailing in 16 minutes after the stage winner.  “I had some breakfast, trying to recover my energy levels.  It was really a case of ‘damage limitation’.  The stage was cooler which helped but I wasn’t going to let it beat me.”

“The pace also seemed to be slower and I just kept out of the wind.  The team recognised that I was suffering and understood so I was only required to work for the others as a last resort.  But I still managed as collect and carry some water bottles a few times.”

After starting to feel better on stage 3, “my legs came good and I was able to eat properly.  Those were both good signs for the rest of the race and I was able to do more work for the team”, the fourth and fifth stages included significant climbs and a lot of cross winds.  Stage 5, being the ‘Queen’ stage, was most expected to affect the overall result.

They both had an impact on 23 year old Dowsett.  “Whenever the stage went up hill, I drifted backwards.  Perhaps I could have tried harder but if I had I could have made it worse and maybe then forced out of the race”.

The race finished with a 90km crit around Adelaide with Dowsett again playing a support role in trying to get Boasson Hagen to the front for the final sprint.  Although Team Sky missed out on a stage win, Boasson Hagen won the Sprinter’s jersey and, in the overall classification, Alex finished towards the back of the field some 46 minutes behind the race winner.

“This isn’t perhaps the best start to my Olympic campaign but I’ve got to take a positive view.  I now know I can take a beating like I did at the end of stage 1 and still recover to play my part”.

Alex is one of a quite a few riders wanting one of the four spots in the GB leadout train for the London Olympic Road Race. No doubt having Mark Cavendish as your training partner helps motivate you for such a goal but Alex knows he needs to step up a level if he is to force his way into that line up. And then there is the Time Trial where he would like to challenge for the medals.

Alex is the British champion and last year in the pro races in Europe, did step up a level from the year before and no-one should write him off as he may well do the same this year. But then, as many riders have found, you can step up to the mark but that doesn’t always mean you get the reward of a place in the GB team. That will be down to whether the GB team management are keen to give him a chance and getting that chance is probably going to be more difficult for him than stepping up a level with his riding.

After flying back to his Essex base and a short rest, Alex travels to the Manchester Velodrome this weekend for the 2012 National Madison championships, an event in which he won the bronze medal in 2011 with Tom Murray and who he’ll be riding with this year as well.

The Madison is always a high speed thriller and involves pairs of riders sprinting for points at pre-designated laps during the 40km race distance and includes the riders giving each other hand-slings as they chase for position on the track.

With the form he’ll have picked up racing in Australia added to the experience gained racing in the 2011 championship race with Tom Murray, Alex is looking forward to hopefully collecting his first championship jersey of the new year – and keeping his name at the top of the selection lists for his Olympic dreams!


Interviews from VeloUK

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