Feature: Alex Dowsett’s Giro



A Postcard from Ischia – Alex Dowsett in 9th overall after two stages and wearing the best young rider’s jersey!

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Gordon Wiseman | Sunday 4 May

Alex Dowsett (Movistar Pro Cycling) can be more than happy with his first two day’s efforts in one of cycling’s Grand Tours – but knows that he’s just completed two of 21 days racing that will see his talents stretched to the limit.

Dowsett’s debut this weekend in the Giro d’Italia has seen him help the team sprinter Fran Ventoso to sixth place in Saturday’s opening stage and then play a key role in Sunday’s 17.4km team time trial that saw the Essex rider come away with the White jersey for the best Young Rider.


But before the racing got underway, Alex had to cope with the inevitable razzmatazz that surrounds such a huge sporting event and he was fully aware of just how big the Giro is to the Italian tifosi.

“The Giro is big to cyclists but to the Italians it’s simply huge. And for all the economic problems Italy is facing, an event as big as the Giro will be a massive boost for the economy. Very few of us had ever heard of the island of Ischia – (where the team time trial took place) – but it’s such a beautiful place, most of the Movistar riders have said they’d want to come back here for a holiday”.

“The team presentation was much more grand than I’d ever imagined it could be and that alone highlighted the enormous appeal the race has, especially to the home fans. And really the whole thing left me feeling very nervous”.

Day 1
Saturday’s opening stage was effectively a 130km criterium in and around Naples. “it was bloody fast” says Alex “and hard from the start to the finish” was how Alex described the first day’s racing. “You had to be so aware of what was going on. I got caught up in two separate accidents. Fortunately, I didn’t actually hit the ground myself but my bike was wrecked in the first of those two crashes.”

“But then with the peloton moving at 50kph, at least it takes a long time to get back onto the wheels and I really had to know when to make a move to get back to where I was supposed to be. I had to use the occasional lull in the racing to move from one group to another.”

“My legs started to really come round with about 30kms to go, I started to feel like me and capable of the job I had to do for Fran” (Ventoso, the team’s sprinter). “He then jumped onto another train, missed the crash in the last kilometre, and sprinted into 6th place. For me that was ‘job done’.”

And with Giovanni Visconti picking up the Mountains jersey as well, it was a good opening stage all round for the Movistar Pro Cycling team.

Day 2
Sunday’s 17.4km team time trial saw the whole Giro circus transfer to the small island of Ischia and that made it a very long day for everyone in the race. “The team buses went over on an earlier ferry with us riders, mechanics, team helpers and cars going over later. We went straight to the bus, got changed and did a one lap recce of the course. I picked up two punctures in just 10 miles!”

“We then had something to eat, rested and prepared for the time trial itself. Of course, after the race, we had the whole transfer saga back to the mainland as well. Really, there’s been a lot of hanging around today but it was good to be able to sit with some of your mates for the 30 – 40 minute ferry crossing each way and catch up with things”.

Movistar went into the team time trial with high expectations as they’ve built up a bit of a reputation in the past (they won the team time trial in last year’s Vuelta a Espana) and for Alex and the team to be beaten by Team Sky – Dowsett’s employer in 2012 – was “a bit gut wrenching. And to lose out by just 9 seconds…”

“Really, I have to say, we did very well and everyone is very happy tonight” he explained on Sunday evening part way through his post-race massage. “I was ‘man 5’ so if other riders dropped out, with the team’s time set by the fifth man to cross the line I had to be in close formation with the other riders so we set the quickest time possible.”

“It was my job to do very long turns on the two flat sections and that’s exactly what I did. I went OK on the first two climbs as well but when it came to the last climb and we were down to just five riders, I had to pull everything out. The other four guys are climbers so I was really suffering just to hang on. I was putting out over 500 watts!”

“That has to have been the hardest 17kms I’ve ever ridden”! And Alex crossed the line with yet another puncture; “Well I like a bit of a drama!”

But for his efforts, Dowsett moved up to 9th place overall and was more than pleased with that. “I got the White Jersey as well! he said pleased to be wearing a race jersey. “I know the best placed Young rider is race leader Italian Salvatore Puccio but he can’t wear two jerseys so I get to wear it instead. It’s going to be a real honour”.

Before the race Alex had thought that if everything went well he might slip on the Young Riders jersey but to know that he’ll now be doing so makes his efforts so far even more rewarding.

“It doesn’t matter to me that it’s really Puccio’s. I’ll wear it no matter what the circumstances are and the jerseys have all been designed by Paul Smith and as a great fan of his clothes, that’ll make the whole thing even more special”.

For the race, Alex is rooming with the vastly experienced Pablo Lastras. “He speaks good English but I’ve got to use the opportunity to really work on my day-to-day Spanish as I’m pretty fluent already in “racing Spanish”.

“Pablo will be a great guy to learn from as he’s done loads of Grand Tours already so he’ll be a great room mate for me”. But with another 19 days racing to go, how will Alex be preparing for each stage?

“I’m definitely going to take it day-by-day. In the next week, I know that a few of the stages start with flat or rolling sections before the climbs start and that’ll suit me. I can do my job for the team’s GC riders and then sit in with the bunch as we take the climbs at the end, hanging on as much as we can”!

God luck to Alex as he continues his journey in his first Grand Tour



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