Feature: Alex Dowsett – A Good Two Weeks

A time trial win and finishing Paris-Roubaix brings the first part of Alex Dowsett’s season to a close

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Feature: Alex Dowsett – A Good Two Weeks
from – Gordon Wiseman

Alex Dowsett (Movistar Team) brought the first part of his 2017 racing season to a successful close last week, winning the 6.8km time trial stage – the 28 year old’s specialty – of the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe and followed that up finishing for the first time in his career arguably the toughest one-day race in the cycling calendar, the 257km cobbled Paris – Roubaix Classic.

Alex has enjoyed success in previous years at the 5-stage Circuit Cycliste Sarthe having won the time trial stage in 2014 – setting a course record in the process – before being pipped into second place by just a handful of seconds by his team-mate Adriano Malori in the 2015 edition.

“I lost the course record in 2015 to Adriano which isn’t such a bad thing, he’s a class rider” Alex explained. “I went two seconds faster than my course record but he went even quicker still! But last week my average speed was the same as in 2015 but as the course was 200m shorter, overall I actually went quicker so I was very pleased with that result”.

“I know that course quite well now, it’s quite technical and so difficult to pace yourself. From the start you go straight uphill so you have to go hard from the off and just hang on. I started with a high level of power but then had to hold it all around the course. I was confidant when I’d finished that it was a good ride and good enough to win. I just knew I’d got everything out of myself. Sometimes you just know that at the end of a ride”.
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Having taken the stage win last week, as he had done in 2014, Alex took the race lead and so had the honour of wearing the leader’s yellow jersey. But with the format of the race staying pretty much the same year-on-year Alex knew what he’d be facing if he was to retain the coveted jersey.

“The day after the time trial stage is based on 6 laps of a horrendous hilly circuit. In 2014 I got blown out after 2 laps. But this year, with my extra focus on my climbing I was able to hang on for 5 of the six laps. I may have lost 4 minutes at the end of the stage’ – and so the leader’s jersey – ‘but I had the knowledge that I had hung on for so much longer and was beaten by a climbing specialist so that made me very happy with my improving form.

“But best of all, the team said they could see how I’d improved with my climbing and that I’d given it a really good fight.. That’s pleasing all round when that sort of thing is noticed. Actually, this year so far has really been pleasing. I’ve been solid in my performances and delivered when asked to do something. It’s the consistency I’ve been perhaps lacking in the last year or so”.

Alex’ ride in the Cycliste Sarthe were book-ended by two of the biggest one day races, the Tour of Flanders and Paris – Roubaix. “In Movistar Team we’re not really a ‘Classics’ squad so those who ride Sarthe often ride some of the Classics held around that time as well. But knowing I’ve got a TT to come I find myself holding back a little in Flanders. But I can then let it go in Roubaix”.

Sunday’s race was a ‘classic’ in every sense.. With the conditions being so dry hydration was an issue for every rider, especially with the huge clouds of dust kicked up by the riders as they negotiated the cobbled, often still working farm roads. And this year’s edition was the fastest on record!

“Sunday was a real epic. The first two hours were run off at over 30mph. When you consider that we ride bigger tyres at Roubaix that are inflated to lower pressures’ – to cope with the cobbles – ‘that makes the speed we were racing at all the more remarkable.

“You don’t hit the cobbles until you’ve got about 60 miles under your belt but you’ve still got hours in the saddle to go. At that point I was looking around me and the faces of the other riders confirmed it wasn’t only me who was struggling!

“I’ve ridden Roubaix twice before but never got further than Arenberg. This year, with my better training and being more confident when we got to Arenberg I knew I could continue racing. There’s around 200 riders start the race and I was still with the front group of about 35 riders when I was caught up in someone else’s accident. I got back on my bike but couldn’t get back to the front group which was disappointing.

“But this year I still got to the finish so that’s a Big Box ticked for me, I was really pleased”.

The next big target for Alex is May’s Giro d’Italia where he scored a famous time trial stage win in 2013, beating the time of the then reigning Tour de France Champion Sir Bradley Wiggins.

“I’ve got about three weeks before the Giro, with one other race’ – the Swiss based Tour of Romandie – ‘before that starts. So between now and then I’ve got a hard training block to fit in. As you progress in your career you learn from racing where you are lacking and so where your focus in training has to be.

“And this year I’m also working with a nutritionist, building up a team that’s there to support me. I’m seeing improvements from all of this as I’m learning to understand myself more. Overall I’m feeling better in myself, can train harder and from recovering better I can then race that bit harder as well”.

With the Giro being such an important part of Alex’ racing season, how does he look back on what he’s achieved so far? “I’ve got my first win under my belt and I’ve got a lot of positives to take out of the last two weeks. I’m climbing and holding on better which will be hugely important in the Giro. I’ve raced a lot already this year so will be happy to train at home, look after my cats, before the next big block of racing”.



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