The 2015 season so far has held mixed fortunes for Alex Dowsett. The 26-year-old has broken the UCI Hour Record, won his first overall stage race at Bayern-Rundfahrt, and regained his national time trial title. However, he has also suffered a broken collarbone, an injury that had a knock-on effect on preparations for the Tour de France, which he was forced to abandon on his debut despite working his socks off to secure selection.
Just over a week on, Dowsett finds himself at the Tour de Pologne, for which he was a last-minute addition to Movistar’s roster, and is looking ahead to the opportunities that await in the latter portion of the season.
He is set to compete on home soil at the Tour of Britain in September, though doesn’t seem overly enthusiastic about the eight-stage HC race.
“There’s no time trial this year and there’s quite a substantial mountaintop finish,” Dowsett told Cyclingnews in Częstochowa, Poland, referring to stage five’s finish atop Hartside Fell in Cumbria.
“The main targets, and they are subject to change, will be the world team time trial championships and world individual time trial championships.”
Here in Poland there is a great opportunity to rack up another WorldTour win as the race concludes with a flat 25-kilometre time trial. Dowsett has noted “a big absence of the real big boys of the time trial world,” and is quietly confident, despite expecting competition from Vasil Kiryienka and Michal Kwiatkowski.
At the end of June the newly-crowned four time national champion explained to Cyclingnews at the British road championships how he had been desperately trying to shed weight from the Hour Record to earn selection for the Tour. He struggled with anything that wasn’t flat in the Route du Sud and Critérium du Dauphiné but despite his attention switching from domestique duties back to his own goals, he’s still trying to lose some of that weight.
“Basically preparing for the Tour de France last year I was at 74-75 kilos,” he said. “After the Hour Record I was up at 80-81, then I had three weeks between Bayern and the Dauphiné to lose that. Whem the Tour came round I was at 78, now I’m at 77, so I’m chipping it off slowly.”
July was a disappointing month for Dowsett but then not all Tour de France debuts can read like fairytales. Riding in support of Nairo Quintana, he crashed between cobbled sectors on stage 4 and after needing stiches in his elbow he never returned to full strength, eventually abandoning the race on the second day in the Pyrenees.
After missing out last year through illness and with the uncertainty – stemming from his fight to get in shape after the postponed Hour Record attempt – that surrounded his selection this year, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
“It was disappointing. I wasn’t best prepared for the Tour but the job I could do for the team I could do very well, which was on the flat on the first 10 days. The next day [after the crash] I had nothing, like absolutely nothing. It was a hard day from start to finish and I had an average heart rate of 115 but I was flat out, when it should have been 145-150. That seemed to be the general format for the rest of it. It really knocked the wind out of my sails,” Dowsett told Cyclingnews.
“For me it was more disappointing to have not done the job that I knew I could have for the first 10 days rather than not finishing. But I know now what I need to do in terms of preparation, and that’s not do an Hour record.”
That doesn’t mean we won’t see Dowsett return to take on the Hour Record, which was snatched from him after just a month by Bradley Wiggins. He’s open about his ambition to give it another crack at some point as well as returning to the Tour, two goals that he feels can still be reconciled in the same season.
“I really want to have another go,” he said. “I think we all want to – myself and the team. It’s obviously a huge stress on the team to prepare it, and what was showed this year is that we have to carefully consider when in the season it is in the season. I would probably actually go later ideally, like right at the end of the season.
“I’ve owned the Hour Record now, that box has been ticked but it’s something I really enjoyed doing, its something I think I’ve got a lot more in the tank for, so I’d like to give it another crack, I think we can do a good job on it.”
An end of season attempt this year is not a possibility but Dowsett isn’t rushing to pencil it in for the back end of next year. He has indicated before that he has several years to go again and that remains the case: “We’re in no rush.”