Talkingshop: Alex Dowsett finishes his first Grand Tour


Gordon Wiseman talks to Movistar’s Alex Dowsett who finished the three week Tour of Italy and looks forward to some down time

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Sunday 26 May – A Postcard from Essex

Celebrating with a Bank Holiday barbeque with friends just ten miles from his home in Great Baddow, Alex Dowsett (Movistar Pro Cycling) spoke with pride at having finished his first ever Grand Tour and to have come away with a stage win as a neo-Grand Tour rider made that celebration all the more satisfying.

The 24 year Chelmsford born rider had completed the three week Giro d’Italia in Brescia – the so called ‘Lioness of Italy’ – on Sunday afternoon after more than 3000kms racing which, as Dowsett explained “not everyone saw as a particularly demanding Giro physically but the appalling weather made the race a real challenge mentally”.


Dowsett topped his performance with a stage win in the 55.5km time trial on the second Saturday of the race. “I didn’t succumb to illness and I didn’t pull out” Alex explained. “I could have thought after winning the time trial that ‘I can’t beat that’ and stopped racing but in finishing I’ve achieved so much. That makes finishing all the more rewarding and I’ve shown the team what I’m capable of when we plan for next year’s Tour de France.”

“Really, up until the Giro, I hadn’t had a very good year. The Classics weren’t what I wanted as I wasn’t able to finish many of those. In fact things were so bad my friend Matt Ewings text me just before the start of the Giro saying ‘just bloody finish something this year will you’!”

At the start of the last week, Alex knew he was in for a bad block of racing with two days in the high mountains – including five climbs over 2000m – and a tricky 19.4km mountain time trial that rose at an average gradient of 5% to contend with.

“That time trial was never going to be something I would do well at. It’s so different to the TT I won as you need to be light as well as having a high power output. But I went flat out to show my thanks to the team and my friends for all the support they’d shown me”.


But Alex had problems in the time trial with mechanical gremlins getting in the way on the day. “I’d decided to use a time trial frame even though others were using road bikes. Everything was working fine in the warm-up but once I came down the start ramp the gears stopped working so I had to swap to a road bike. And then afterwards the TT bike was working OK. Weird”.

The two stages in the mountains were hit with more of the snow and rain that had cursed the whole of this year’s Giro. Things were so bad that Friday’s stage that should have included climbs of the legendary Gavia and Stelvio was cancelled completely.

And Alex’ response? An honest “Today’s cancelled. I feel I deserve it!”

But did Alex later feel that with an extra rest day and major climbs cut off the parcours that his finishing the Giro was devalued in any way? “No, no way. Not with what we actually had to deal with. Other experienced Grand Tour riders had said the route for the Giro was not the most difficult for the three Grand Tours this year. But none of them felt the race was any easier when the awful weather was factored in”.

Talking with his fellow Brits Mark Cavendish and Adam Blythe, they all felt that they were used to dealing with such changeable weather, even though in the UK it may not get as cold as the weather Alex and his fellow riders had to face in the mountains.

“I’ve actually spent time in the past ‘training’ my hands to deal with such extreme cold weather by riding in the snow without gloves. But it was really bad. Luke Durbridge was having migraines during the stages because of ‘brain freeze’ and I completely lost the feeling in my feet it was so cold”.

At the end of a three week Grand Tour it is traditional for riders to take things a little easier but that wasn’t completely what happened as the riders faced their final day in the saddle.

“The organisers made the final stage over 200kms, such a long day so late in the race. Everyone thought that was too long. We just rode as a procession for the first 160kms or so but when we started the final laps in Brescia then the hammer really went down. It was probably the fastest and most full-on 30kms of the race”.

And even though there were still competitions to be finalised, Mark Cavendish only took the lead in the competition for the Sprinters red jersey with 16.1kms of the race to go, the spirit of cycling still shone through with the collective peloton holding back to allow the 2000 Giro winner Stefano Garzelli – riding in his last Giro d’Italia – to be the first to cross the finishing line as the race entered the final 7 laps of the 4.6km Brescia finishing circuit.


So what did Alex learn about himself as a professional bike rider? “I’ll know what to expect physically and mentally for my next Grand Tour. And for later this year in week long stages races, I’ll know I have the physical and mental strength to complete and compete in those. And, of course, the weather will never faze me again!”

Alex’ own stage win was an obvious high but proving just what a team oriented sport professional bike racing is, his other ‘high’ was “crossing the finishing line to hear that a team-mate had won a stage” – something Movistar riders did on three other occasions. “I was particularly happy when Benat Intxausti won his stage as I’d worked really hard for him that day”.

But a race lasting three weeks would have its ‘lows’ as well. “The first day in the last week. Me and Jesse Sergent went out the back straightway even though we were trying as hard as we could. Some days you’d think you just couldn’t continue but the next day, new legs and away you went. What made that day really hard was watching riders hanging onto cars to get over the climbs. I couldn’t do that, it’s just not in my nature.

The Movistar management were more than pleased with Alex’ performance over the three weeks. General Manager Eusebio Unzué, commenting about the team having set a record of scoring stage wins in seven consecutive Grand Tours heaped praise on his young English rider.

“We’ve never taken four stage victories in the Giro or the Tour in our 34 years of history, so this performance is extraordinary. And even though all stages are always important, these four were spectacular. Alex’s, though it might be a bit unexpected for the public, was a confirmation of his time trialling abilities with just 24 years old. Beating Wiggins, the best specialist in the world, makes it even more valuable”.

Alex succeeded in achieving what he set out to do when the race left Naples three weeks ago, to finish his first Grand Tour. He finished in 148th place, 3hr 40mins 57secs behind winner Vincenzo Nibali.

“Next I’ll probably be resting and training for the next part of my season starting with the National Road Race championships at the end of the month. Oh yes, and being able to get back to Nandos and riding out to the Blue Egg café”!



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