Alex Dowsett, Movistar Team
Movistar’s Giro time-trial winning boy from Essex talks Club 10s, beating Wiggo and why cheats should be banned for life
Cyclist: You had an early start slot in the Giro time-trial. What was it like watching the other guys come in after you?
Alex Dowsett: It was horrible. Time-trialling is such a harsh justice. If just one person had knocked me off top-spot it would be in the car, off to the hotel, that’s that. No prizes for second place. As Tanal Kangert came in it was so tense [Kangert finished third behind Wiggins]. Usually when you know how far away somebody is from the line you can judge how long it’s going to take them, but the last section was so slow that it was difficult to gauge. By the end, though, when I saw people like Wiggins coming in it was easier to judge if they’d beat you or not.
Cyc: Wiggins came close to doing just that but suffered a flat. How did that make you feel?
AD: A lot of people said, ‘What if Wiggins hadn’t punctured?’ But that’s time-trialling. It’s bad luck. But it’s happened to me, it’ll happen to him again, it’ll happen to everyone. It was my day.
Cyc: When you moved from Sky to Movistar a lot of people said you were crazy. Has your win silenced them?
AD: The fact I’ve got to ride a Grand Tour totally vindicates that decision. The Giro stage win was a bonus. If you look at Sky’s Giro team there was very little chance I could have fitted in, and if I had I would have been doing a lot of work. Whereas with Movistar I got to ride my first Grand Tour without the team asking anything of me for seven stages so I’d be fresh for the time-trial. It was the best-case scenario.
Cyc: How does life with a Spanish team compare with Team Sky?
AD: There are a lot more similarities with Sky than I thought there would be. It wasn’t a culture shock at all. Movistar have got a sports science department and they’re trying to tick all the right boxes. Sky was more clinical and that’s clearly working for them, but Movistar has more of a family atmosphere. There are no egos; everyone is prepared to put themselves on the line for each other. It’s the Spanish, they’re just a nice race, and that reflects in our team.
Cyc: Do you think all this ‘marginal gains’ talk is nonsense?
AD: Not at all. All the teams have to buy into it because it’s a much cleaner sport than it was, and the gains nowadays aren’t made where they used to be. Aerodynamics, bodyweight and nutrition, they’re all crucial. They are your ‘performance enhancers’ so to speak. You get a few idiots that are still determined to go down the really bad route, but it’s good to see they’re getting pulled out. You only have to see the backlash on Twitter that Di Luca and Santambrogio caused [two Vini Fantini riders disqualified for testing positive at this year’s Giro] to see just how strongly we feel about the drugs thing, because it’s our sport. I think there should be lifetime bans. People like Di Luca should really go to prison; they’ve taken drugs, it’s against the law. They don’t deserve to be let back into the sport.
Cyc: It’s great to see riders like you setting a good example, especially at a grass-roots level. We hear you even go back to race your local Club 10s?
AD: I’m actually based in England all the time – I only go over to Spain to race or for team training camps – and that’s part of the reason I’m good at time-trialling, because we’ve got such a good TT culture here. Maldon CC’s 10-mile time-trial was the first race I ever entered, and I love to go back there. The last race I did before the Giro was a club TT and the first race I did after was as well. Stick a number on my back and I’ll race as hard as I did at the Giro.
Cyc: And do you always win?
AD: I’m the only full-time bike rider there so if I didn’t win there’d be a few problems! But there are a lot of good British riders coming up at the moment.
Cyc: Anyone in particular we should be looking out for?
AD: One lad who’s really impressed me is Tao Geoghegan Hart. He’s been on the podium at Junior Roubaix yet he’s hitting people in the mountains in stage races as well. I raced that level as a junior and it’s seriously hard. I was out training with him and Cav two days ago. Cav’s flying at the moment, he’s super lean and really hitting big numbers, and I’m going well too. But Tao was there just floating up the climbs with us. He’s going to be good. He’s got his head screwed on as well. I hope he makes the right decisions in terms of teams. I’ll be saying to my team, ‘Get him in, get him in!