Alex Dowsett (Team Sky) will start a new chapter in his professional career when he heads off to Spain next week for a first training camp with his new Movistar teammates. The British time trial champion is hoping that his move to the Spanish squad will provide him with the opportunity to race in grand tours and the Classics, and to improve his ability on the climbs.
Speaking to VeloUK, Dowsett said his move to Movistar, who have not had a British rider on their roster since Jeremy Hunt spent four seasons with them in the late 1990s, is about opportunity more than anything. “There have been quite a few offers and I have been in a nice situation. While Team Sky were keen to keep me, Movistar were also very keen to sign me and it is nice to go to a team where you are really wanted rather than a team which are just interested in you. That was a big factor in my decision,” said Dowsett.
“I feel this is a natural progression for me after two years of having had my own opportunities as well as doing a lot of work for my teammates. I have learnt a lot from that."
Dowsett believes he will benefit from the move when it comes to competing at races like the ENECO Tour that feature a time trial as well as some hard road stages. “With my ability as a time triallist, I can be 100 per cent supported for that type of race and really go for it. ENECO is a race I am clearly suited to and I can go to a race like that not just as one of the GC riders, but as a fully supported rider.
“I had opportunities at Sky but often I’d have to ride myself into those opportunities through the time trial and force myself into a protected rider situation and occasionally it would mean working for some one else the first couple of days and then the time trial would come and it would be like, ‘Oh, Alex is up there on GC, we’ll work for him.’”
The 24-year-old Englishman appreciates the opportunity he has had in learning his trade at Sky, but admitted he felt he might not have got a look-in for the grand tours and Classics if he had stayed with the British squad. “I’m ready to ride a grand tour and I think it’s important to ride one. With Team Sky, it is difficult to get in those teams because where do you go from winning the Tour de France? You now aim for a clean sweep in all three of the grand tours and, with the signings they have made, I’ll still struggle as a young up-and-coming rider to get into those grand tour teams.”
As a time trial specialist with a very big engine, Dowsett believes he could follow the example of Bradley Wiggins. “I think it is something I can aspire to. In my two years as a pro so far, I have never needed to climb. If there have been stages with climbing, it’s been a case of getting as far as you can and getting in the gruppetto to get to the finish. A few times in [the Tour de] Beijing, I had to commit to a climb and get over with them and I could do it. Although it was hard, I could do it.
“I imagine I will learn a lot about climbing at Movistar because like time trialling, there is an element of technique to it… I need to get myself through a grand tour because they are a completely different kettle of fish and then look at how I am progressing as a rider. I know Brad did a lot of specific work, lost a lot of weight and it would take a real commitment from me to get to where he is for sure. I don’t see why long term though I can’t transform myself into that sort of rider. I’m not afraid of hard work or afraid of sacrifices as well.”
Dowsett expects that he might also get opportunities in the northern Classics given the Spanish team’s relative lack of focus on those races. “I can’t imagine many of the guys putting their hands up saying they want to ride Flanders and I think they’d suit me, so why not?”For the time being, he also expects to remain based in Essex. Movistar have told him they don’t want him to be away from family and his home environment for any longer than necessary. “They told me, ‘We just expect you to turn up fit for racing.’ That means there is more responsibility for me with the training but I like that.”