Movistar’s Alex Dowsett has set himself the target of starting next year's Tour de France. The race kicks off in the rider’s home nation with three stages in the United Kingdom before a transfer to mainland France, and Dowsett, who won a stage in his maiden Grand Tour effort, believes he can claim a spot in Movistar's nine-man Tour line-up.
"I have a rough programme and it's with the aim of riding the Tour de France. It will be the typical build up with races like the Dauphine. I've just got to go out there and prove that I'm worthy enough of a place in the team’'s Tour squad. That’s my one and only goal and then there's the Commonwealth Games off the back of that as well," Dowsett told Cyclingnews from his home in Essex, England.
Movistar put Nairo Quintana in second place in this year's Tour de France, with the pint-sized Colombian claiming the KOM and white jerseys on his way to Paris. The team has yet to confirm its leader for next year's race with Quintana mulling over a Giro bid and Alejandro Valverde an option for captaining the Tour team.
"Obviously the team will be made of up one guy going for the GC result, although we don't know who that is yet, and then climbers, which we have in abundance. Then they'll need riders for the flat and helping them around the bunch. That's where my strengths can come in, so I'll be looking for one of those slots.
"From races like the Tour of Beijing and Tirreno I've shown that I can look after a GC guy pretty well and make sure he's in the right place at the right time in crucial races."
Dowsett realises that his Tour de France slot will not just come down to his efforts in helping others. During the opening months of the season he will be expected to produce results of his own, and the 25-year-old will look to replicate results like his Giro stage win in a number of early season stage races.
"There are going to be races where I can show myself. So there's Tirreno where there's a team time trial and an individual one, but I'm in a good position in the sense that every time the TT bike comes out I'm going for a result and the rest of the time I'm helping the team and doing what I can."
With a Tour de France programme for the first half of the season, Dowsett will step away from the Classics which he rode this year. They were his first serious steps in the one day Spring monuments and he admits that he faced a steep learning curve.
"I've asked to take a back step with the Classics. They were pretty disastrous for me last year, and I wasn't ready for them. I know what I need to do in order to be ready for them but next year isn't the year I want to attack them. I want to put all my focus on the Tour de France and I'd rather go to Flanders and Roubaix and be 100 per cent ready for them."
"It's a horrible experience lining up for a Classic when you know you don't have the form. I knew this year that within an hour of the first race that I could hold 400 watts for an hour but I couldn't hold 500 or 600 watts for two minutes and that's what those races are about. I just wasn't ready and I knew within the first hour of the first race. I lacked that specific training but there was nothing I could do, so it was a case of backs against the wall for every single Classics. I ended up pretty much hating them while I was there but I learnt a hell of a lot and it's something I do want to go back and attack, but the Tour is a bigger target for 2014."
With his first full season on Movistar under his belt Dowsett can reflect back to the start of the year when many looked upon his move from Sky to Spain's WorldTour team as slightly left-field. Despite not knowing Spanish and with other teams in the hunt for his signature, Dowsett took the step of signing for a team that hadn't signed a rider from the UK since Jeremy Hunt in the mid 1990s.
"When Movistar signed me it was always the long term plan to do the Tour. I wanted to do a Grand Tour in my first year and they picked the best one for me with the Giro. I'm super grateful and that obviously went well."
"Some of my closest family were questioning my move," Dowsett admitted to Cyclingnews.
"I knew that it was the right thing to do. Sky wasn't the place for me to be when it came to moving my career on as quickly as I wanted. Basically there was this sentence that I kept hearing 'that I wasn't put in races because I lacked experience.' So for me it was obvious that I had to go somewhere where I could get that experience. I don't begrudge Sky at all. They were going to every Grand Tour to win so they needed the experience to win it, not a new kid who is knocking around but probably won't finish. I just had to go to another team in order to have those opportunities straight away."