Tour de France – Alex Dowsett’s Tour


Dowsett: “In the Tour, both road stages so far have been as intense throughout as you’d expect a race to be in the final 30kms when it really is race time”.

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Tour de France – Alex Dowsett’s Tour

Alex Dowsett – This is my job
(from – Gordon Wiseman)

The 2015 Tour de France got underway in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Saturday and Essex rider Alex Dowsett (Movistar Team) has had it proved to him after just three stages why La Grande Boucle is the world’s biggest – and baddest – bike race.


With this year’s 21 stages kick-starting with a 13.8km time trial – the Essex riders favourite racing discipline and one in which he is the multiple British champion and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist – it was an opening stage he knew was made just for him.

Before the race started he’d said “I know I’ll get goose bumps as I sit at the top of the start ramp in my first Tour, wearing the British champion’s jersey” and after his ride he confirmed that was exactly how he felt as the timekeeper started the countdown to the start of Alex’s ride.

On the day, Dowsett proved to be up against Rohan Dennis (BMC), the Aussie rider who’d earlier in the year set the World Hour record Alex was to trump at the start of May but on this occasion it was Dennis who had the upper hand.

“The TT was what it was” is how Alex later summed up his ride that saw him finish in 13th place, 36 seconds behind his long-time rival. Whilst not wanting to make excuses he said “the course was not really up my street as it was one where you really had to stay on the power. The courses I do well on are those where you have to ‘think’ more about what you have to do. This was a course where you had to hit it hard and hold on so I found it a bit of a struggle. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed”.

“But Dennis put in a superb ride and set a huge average speed” – later confirmed as being the fastest ever individual time trial stage in the history of the Tour. “I think I went out chasing his time and speed rather than concentrating on what I had to do. If I’d done that I really do think I’d have got inside the top ten as I’d hoped I would before the Tour started”.

“After the stage things didn’t really get any better. Because I was so dehydrated I had to wait in doping control for two hours before I could wee and give them a sample. No wonder I was a bit grumpy at the end of the day!”


But looking at his and his team-mates results, Alex saw some positives in their combined rides. Stage 9 is a 28km team time trial from Vannes – Plumelec, the day before the first rest day of the Tour and just before the race moves into the mountains in the Pyrenees. And with three Movistar riders finishing in the top 13 on the opening stage Alex knows they’ll start the TTT as one of the stage favourites.

“Yes, we’ve got a really strong tem for the team time trial. There’s guys like me, Adriano Malori’ – Dowsett’s room-mate for the Tour – ‘and Jonathan Castroviejo who will really power along on the flatter sections of the course and as it climbs towards the end, then we’ve got the guys to help our team leader Nairo Quintana up to the finish. But I know that first we’ve got to get to the part of the race” he honestly acknowledged.

And with the Tour being the Tour, already nearly half a dozen riders have been forced out of the race through injuries caused in the early race crashes including time trial legend Fabian Cancellara.

“The Tour really is stressful’ Alex explained. “The crowds are not only huge but they’re so noisy as well. Even when we’re riding through the neutralised sections at the start of each stage the crowds are making so much noise that you can’t have a chat with another rider. And in any case, because I’ve got to constantly be pushing to get to the front of the race to protect Nairo, no one’s really wanting to talk anyway, it really is dog eat dog out there.”

To Alex, the Tour doesn’t have the same feel as other stages races. “The Giro is nothing like this’ he said, having ridden the Giro d’Italia in 2013. “There you can settle into the race. In the Tour, both road stages so far have been as intense throughout as you’d expect a race to be in the final 30kms when it really is race time”.

Sunday’s second stage took the riders 166km, through Rotterdam to Zelande and, although it was pan flat with the highest point being at 6ms above sea level, it was another day full of drama.

If the flat lands and strong cross winds blowing in off the North Sea weren’t bad enough with about 60kms to go, as expected, the Etixx – Quick-Step squad of Mark Cavendish put the power down causing echelons through the whole peloton, splitting the race into a number of smaller groups.

“We were on it from the start, all the way to the finish. And did it rain at the very worst time and that caused chaos. I was well positioned in the Cavendish group at the front of the race but for about 5kms I was looking around for Nairo and some other team-mates but they hadn’t made it so I had to drop back.

“We then found ourselves in the third group on the road before we were all together but then we were basically left with a 25 mile team time trial to cut Nairo’s losses as much as we could. If I hadn’t had to drop back I’d have probably finished off in about 5th or 6th overall. But that isn’t why I’m at the race. I’m here for the team.

Monday’s stage to Huy gave the race another perspective again with some proper hills including probably the steepest part of the whole Tour when the peloton raced up the 26% wall of the Mur de Huy.

“I felt good for about the first 120kms of the stage and was towards the front so missed the big crashes but then realised I hadn’t eaten properly either after Sunday’s stage or at the start of this stage. But the problem is by the time you realise that it’s too late as you’ve just got to give everything each and every day”.

So how does Alex sum up his first few days in the Tour, a race he’s wanted to compete in since he first started racing? “Really, to me it feels more like a series of 1 day races rather than a stage race. But, this is my job. I’m here to ride for the team, to ride for Nairo. But I’ll tell you this, it’s bloody hard!”

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