Talkingshop: Alex Dowsett the Movistar in 2013


Gordon Wiseman interviews Movistar rider Alex Dowsett who has moved to new pastures in his professional racing career

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This weekend Alex starts his 2013 season in the colours of the Spanish outfit Movistar, probably the oldest team in cycling’s WorldTour. After two years riding for Team Sky, Britain’s biggest and most successful bike racing team, the move to Movistar will be a huge change for the 24 year old but one that he sees as being key to his desire for bigger racing challenges.

After what was his “annus horribilis” in 2012 – Alex lost an important part of the season following an accident in March when racing in West Flanders that may well have cost him his place in Team GB’s Olympic squad – the move to Movistar will give him the opportunities to lead the team at certain races.



Although disappointed at missing out at the Olympics, Alex finished last year with an excellent 8th place overall in the World Championship’s individual time trial but by then his deal with his new Spanish employers had already been agreed.

“The move from Sky was a massive decision and some people may not understand why I made the change. Certainly Sky was the best place for me as a neo-pro just as my year at the British Olympic Academy was the best place for me to be before I rode for Trek-Livestrong in 2010″.

“I wasn’t afraid of leaving the ‘safety’ of Sky neither did I disagree with any of their decisions about what they wanted me to do – I love working for others guys and being in a lead out. But I needed the move so I could improve. And being the only Movistar rider from Britain, they’re relying on me to be professional in my training and non-race time.”

“But my move to Movistar will give me the chance to lead the team at certain races that suit my style of racing. And I’m presently about 80% certain to be riding for the team at this year’s Giro d’Italia and having competed in a three week Grand Tour is something I think I should now have on my palmares at this stage of my career. At the same time, I’ll still be able to work for others as well.”

With a certain star rider at his previous employer recently stating that he’d be making the Giro his number one goal of 2013, how does Dowsett feel about lining up against his old teammates and hopefully making his debut in a Grand Tour at the same time?

“I actually think it’ll be great but more for British cycling than anything else. If I’d stayed at Sky, I don’t know when I’d have got my chance but now it’s looking like I’ll be another British rider racing at the very top. Just think of how many British riders could be lining up for that race alone. And all riding for so many different teams. That’s just got to be good for the sport in the UK”.



Alex is best known for his results against the clock and it’s that skill in time trials that he wants to use when leading Movistar at races such as the Eneco Tour and the Circuit de la Sarthe. “Previously, at races such as the Eneco, I’d ride the first few days for someone else in the team. I’d do a good ride in the TT and then the team would say ‘Alex is doing well in the GC, we’ll ride for him’. But now Movistar will ride to protect me from the start so when it comes to the time trial stage, I’ll be fresher and so hopefully that’ll mean I’ll be in contention for the overall.”

“Until I ride a Grand Tour I don’t know how I’ll perform over three weeks but I know that in the shorter stage races I can get results”.

Dowsett’s performances in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes and the Tour of Britain in 2011 back up his claim. “In Charentes in August ’11, I got my first pro win in the final stage and that moved me up to second overall. And then in the Tour of Britain” and wearing the National Time Trial champion’s jersey for the first time, I took another stage win, this time against the clock. I still reckon that if things had gone better for me in the earlier stage to Stoke, with the TT win as well, I’d have been nearer the top in the overall.”

“And that’s why I’m looking forward to the chances that Movistar will be giving me”.

The winter’s training, with Dowsett’s morale boosted by his performances in the Worlds against the clock and in the road race, did not all go as he’d hoped with a troubling spell of tendonitis curtailing his efforts so it wasn’t until 1st January that he was able to ride his bike completely pain free. Did that cause him any concerns at the first proper training camp with Movistar?


Alex races off the starting ramp in the 2011 Tour of Britain.

“We’d met in Pamploma before Christmas but that was mainly to start looking at race programmes, sorting out clothing, media stuff and the like so the first proper camp was at the start of the month in Almeria so, yes, because of my lack of some quality training miles up to then I was a little worried but everyone took the camp in their stride. If a rider was stronger on a climb they’d be left to their own pace and we’d simply regroup at the top. Simply put, everyone at Movistar can climb!”

Whilst Alex accepts that Movistar will have signed him for his ability against the clock – if selected this will certainly prove true in the 17.4km team time trial at the Giro – he wants to tap into the climbing expertise that overflows in the team.

“I’m not intimidated by the climbers in the team, that’s one reason why I signed for them, so I can learn and improve when the road goes uphill and that excites me. But boy, those guys can really climb. I know it’s currently a weakness of mine but they’ve got guys who are 5 or 6 kilos heavier than me and they were just leaving me behind!”

The history of Movistar goes back to the early 1980’s and one of their Sports Directors, Eusebio Unzué, has been with the team from the start and helped Miguel Indurain as he raced to five successive victories at the Tour de France. But the team are still learning as Alex explains. “They’ve seen what Sky have done in just three years and the way they’ve raised the bar in terms of rider preparation. Although I don’t yet understand much Spanish, a few phrases were repeated and repeated at Almeria, words such as “Team Sky” and “marginal gains” were regularly used. Science is as big for Movistar as it was at Sky and that’s important for me and my generation of riders”.

One thing that won’t change with the move from Sky to Movistar is the bike Alex will be riding with both teams riding the Pinarello Dogma frameset. “That’ll help but there are still loads of differences in the kit we’ll use. I’ve moved to Campag for the gears, the saddles are different, the pedals and the bars are different as well. Just the pedals alone, at Sky I was using Speedplay but with Movistar it’s Look so I’ve had to move my saddle up a bit. Maybe only little changes but they all make a difference”.

But there is another side to Alex Dowsett the pro bike rider and that’s Alex Dowsett the haemophiliac. A condition as serious as haemophilia is bound to have had an important influence on his considering a move from Sky as it impacts on everything in his life.

“I’ve just about got haemophilia as bad as you can get it and there are very very few other sportsmen and women who are competing at the very top of their sport in the world as I am. And so how Movistar took this into account was huge for me. Even something as the different language used in the team was important in medical terms.”

“But they’ve been brilliant. At Pamploma they simply told the other riders to understand why I may be injecting myself at certain times. And how they’ve taken this on board has really put my mum’s mind at rest as well.”


Time Trials are king with Alex and he’s a pretty dab hand at them as well!

Dowsett is well aware of the important role he can play in the haemophilia society and over the winter months has been taking steps to give something to others who have the condition. “With my agent, I’ve formed a charity called ‘Little Bleeders’ which we hope to launch later in the year. The idea is to give youngsters with haemophilia some support.”

“Years ago, for many, being given this diagnosis was, to them, ‘the end’. But it’s no longer like that. I’ve always thought that we have a responsibility to help ourselves in situations like this and I guess that’s the influence of my mum and dad.”

“When I was young my doctor told my parents that swimming would be great for me and from then on my mum hauled me round Essex every night so I could take part in swimming lessons. I want to help others see that they can help themselves in a similar way. The name ‘Little Bleeders’ was my own idea and I’m really proud of it. It’s amusing in its own way”.

Movistar Colours
Alex will pull on his blue and green Movistar racing jersey for the first time at the Challenge Vuelta Ciclista a Mallorca that starts in Palma on Sunday. The Challenge is made up of four individual races and riders can do as many of those races as they want. But for those who do all five races, there’s an overall prize.

“That can make the racing really hard” explained Alex. “Riders can do the starting race, rest for a day and then do the last two races with fresh legs. And some riders just do one or two races so with the constant reinjection of fresh riders, that’s what makes it such a hard race. I’m planning on doing three of the races – I hope they don’t want me to do more! I know it’ll be a tough start to my year but I can’t wait!”


Alex Dowsett (centre) in action at the British Road Race Championships where he was in the break all day and finished second to teammate Ian Stannard.

After Mallorca, Alex will be riding at the Volta ao Algarve followed by the Volta a Catalunya before moving to the Tour of Flanders and Paris – Roubaix, the Circuit de la Sarthe and, hopefully, the Giro. With no semi-Classics currently in his schedule, following his season defining crash in West Flanders last year, is Alex worried about returning to riding on the cobbles in such big races?

“I’ll naturally be a bit nervous but there were cobbled sections in last year’s Eneco and the Ster Electro so I had the chance then to get used to them again. Plus the fact of course that I wasn’t responsible for the crash in Flanders last year, I was a passenger in someone else’s accident!”

And Alex has experience riding in the big cobbled races having competed in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne before his accident. “So I know that knowledge of the route and positioning is important. Power always pays dividends in those sort of races as well and whilst it’ll be great to ride in Flanders and at Roubaix, really, the cobbled races aren’t a main priority at Movistar, that’s always been the Grand Tours”.

So the new season has plenty to offer the Essex rider who’ll still be retaining his base near to where he was born despite the obvious draw of regular training riders in the sun with his new teammates. The season will give him plenty of new opportunities but at the same time he doesn’t really think of the differences between his old and new employers. “Yes there are differences” he said summing up his move “but I think people will be surprised how many similarities there are as well.”


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