Alex Dowsett wore a broad smile at the finish line of stage one of the Tour of Beijing, in the shadow of the Olympic aquatic centre known colloquially as the “Water Cube.” Team Sky's young rouleur certainly didn’t sink in the 11.3km time trial as he coped admirably with jet lag to clock the quickest time of the early starters.
“I used to do time trials in England and they were always at six o'clock in the morning anyway, so it’s normal for me,” Dowsett told Cyclingnews.
When Dowsett went to the start ramp outside the Olympic Stadium, the iconic “Bird’s Nest,” it was indeed 6:28am at home in Essex. After he crossed the line, he waited until the very end of the race, about two hours, without going back to his hotel. He knew in his own mind that he had good chance of climbing onto the podium, at least for the best young rider's trophy.
Ultimately, Dowsett finished third on the stage, 24 seconds behind Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) and seven seconds behind his fellow countryman David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo). He also beat his teammates Chris Froome (4th) by two seconds and Steve Cummings (5th) by eleven.
“I went to the Tour of Beijing do to something today,” Dowsett said.
The Briton has had a very strong end to the season. In the last five weeks, he has won a stage at the Tour de Poitou-Charentes (second in GC) and the individual time trial of the Tour of Britain, as well his national time trial championship. His third place in China is a special result, however, as it is his first podium finish in a WorldTour race.
Dowsett explained the hard work that he did to prepare the first stage. “I knew the course suited me, it was quite flat and similar to the Tour of Britain time trial,” he said. “I went on the circuit a couple of times yesterday and this morning again to see the technical corners. As we couldn't use our time trial bikes, I've been practising riding the drops more and making myself as small as possible [on the bike].”
As the Tour of Beijing course is all flat except for stage 3, Dowsett has a good chance of securing a solid placing in the final general classification. He currently leads the young riders classification by 26 seconds over Ben King (RadioShack), and his main rivals for the white jersey could be Peter Sagan (who is 36 seconds down) and Thomas De Gendt (40 seconds).
The Sky neo-professional, who turned 23 two days ago, refuses to claim any status, however. “The most important thing is the team. I think we could do very well, especially in the sprints with Davide Appollonio, who is a phenomenal sprinter.”