Feature Interview: Alex Dowsett

Feature interview with Alex Dowsett after his 5th place in the European Time Trial Championships by Gordon Wiseman

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Dowsett’s Positive Euros Rejuvenates his Season

from – Gordon Wiseman

Returning to national colours after a gap of nearly two years, riding for Great Britain, Alex Dowsett finished the men’s European Championship’s time trial an agonising seven seconds off a podium place but more than pleased with the recent changes he’s implemented and sees the Euros result as confirming he’s making steps in the right direction.

Since his two top six TT finishes at the Giro d’Italia in May, the 29-year old – who usually rides in the colours of the Swiss registered Team, Katusha-Alpecin – has been more than a little disappointed with his results, especially in his favoured time trials, and has spent some time reviewing his position on the bike as part of a package of changes.

And although he wasn’t able to top the time set by now double European TT champion, Belgium’s Victor Campenaerts, Dowsett still took the scalps of some notable ‘testers’ who’ve been his peers in recent months.

“I’ve felt that I’ve been struggling with longer TTs recently’ he explained. “I’ve trained and eaten well but the results haven’t been coming. I started looking at my position on the bike and, whereas I think up to 5 years ago, I was ahead of the game, others have now started catching up so I needed to think again.

“Looking at how some others who’ve been setting times quicker than mine are positioned on their bikes, I stated tinkering with and trying various things and the results have started to come through. There’s a local, well-used 10-mile TT course near to me that I’ve raced on more times than I can remember and with my new set-up I’ve gone under 19 minutes for the first time. And I’m not just using brute force so I know I’m going in the right direction”.
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But Dowsett is disappointed that this progress is coming so late in the season. “With my programme for the rest of the year, I can only think of one more time trial I’m scheduled to ride and that’s at this week’s Binck Bank Tour. There’s a chance I might get picked for the World’s’ – on a really challenging, some would say mountainous, course near Innsbruck, Austria – ‘but with the massive climb in the middle of that course, it’s not really suited to my abilities. But if I’m picked I’ll give it everything I can”.

Thinking about his result in the Euros – that covered a 45.7km course – Alex actually felt he could have finished higher up the finishing order. “It’s not sour grapes but I should have really got at least fourth place as I was held up by race officials’ cars and my accompanying police out-rider. I don’t mind the fact that the weather worsened at the time I rode – that affects everyone at some point or another but at this level – actually at any level – with margins being so small, you can’t afford for official vehicles getting in your way”.

After finishing his ride, the re-crowned European champion spoke about the benefits he’d gained from a solid block of training he’d completed at altitude before coming straight to the championships. Alex described some of his preparation for event.

British TT championships and third behind Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and Harry Tanfield

“I did a ten-day altitude camp with the team in the same area as Campenaerts so we all benefited from that sort of effort. But that’s the sort of extra detail you’ve got to commit to to stay at this level. It’s not just training hard at home, everything has to be looked at. Victor works hard at looking after the little things and that’s what I have to do as well”.

“There’s a small number of ‘testers’ at the very top, riders like Tom Dumoulin’ – the current TT World Champion and 2017 Giro d’Italia winner – and my team-mate Tony Martin. Then probably just a fraction below them are the likes of Geraint and Chris Froome. Campenaerts is probably at that level as well. In recent years I may not have been in that group but I’ve taken real positives from my Euros result that I’m determined to take forward. That’s where I want to be again.”

“My Giro results were good but they came as part of or in the middle of a three-week grand tour. At the Euros, we were probably only missing five or six of the world’s best TT riders so that also underlines my performance”.

Alex’ coach Charline Jones (née Joiner) also commented on the great power numbers Alex produced during his ride and that his improved riding position gave him the opportunity to use that power more effectively and so produce such a good ride. Alex has also recently signed a new, two-year contract with his team and that has also given him a great boost to his confidence.
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“I know I’ve done a good job this year and it’s just a shame the team haven’t had the results we’d hoped for. I’ve done what has been asked of me and if I hadn’t, I guess I wouldn’t have a new contract. What’s as important, is that I’m really happy here with the team.”

“The first year with a new team is always a trial period. There is pressure as I could have crashed and had an injury affected season. And I’ve not played a role in a lead out train’ – for the team’s star German sprinter Marcel Kittel – ‘since I rode at Sky in 2012 for Cav so I’ve taken the new contract as a real boost to what I’ve done for the team.”

And that’s a view also taken by Katusha’s General Manager José Azevedo who said “Alex came to us this year and is such a good time trialist but he can also be important for us in the lead-out for our sprinters. We also like what we see in his interactions within the group. He’s new but has fitted in really well with the team. We’ve signed him with the idea that he can win races and this year he was close in some time trials. We expect victories from him in the future, especially in the time trials and we will continue to work with him on this point. We believe in him and that he can win.”

What does the rest of the season hold in store for Dowsett? “As I said, I’ve got the Binck Bank Tour this week’ – a 7-day stage race that takes place in the Netherlands and Belgium. Alex helped Kittel to second place in the opening stage on Monday – ‘then my ‘home’ race, the Tour of Britain. I’m looking forward to that as I’ve worn the leader’s jersey in that race in the past. Then hopefully I’ll ride for the team in the last ever World Team Time Trial championships before my season finishes off in China for the Tour of Guangxi.

“I’ve done the end of season races in China before but this time I’m hoping I can stay for a few extra days after the racing to talk to some children about how they deal with their haemophilia” – Dowsett being probably the world’s leading sportsman with this impacting blood condition.

Thank you to Alex for his time …


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