The 28-year-old will start the Abu Dhabi Tour on Thursday, as he works toward the Giro d’Italia in what is his fifth season with the Spanish squad.
“It’s no different to any other year, just a bit jittery. You never want to have a bad year, but you definitely don’t want to have one in a contract year,” Dowsett told Cyclingnews. “I’ll attack it like I would do any other season – work hard over the winter, then line-up goals and try to achieve them.”
A time trial stage victory at the Giro d'Italia is chief among those goals for the British TT champion, who has unfinished business with the Grand Tour he missed through shoulder surgery and a six-week lay-off in 2016.
“It’ll be different because [teammate] Nairo [Quintana] wants to win it so the priority 100 per cent lies with him. I’ve just got to prove I’m good enough to go to support him and then I’ll get my opportunities in the time trials as well,” Dowsett explained.
In his first season with Movistar, Dowsett made a breakthrough at the 2013 Giro d'Italia, trumping former Team Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins to claim the stage 8 time trial. It was a special moment but also distracted Dowsett.
“I beat Wiggins,” the Commonwealth Games gold medallist emphasised. “After that, I think because it was so big I was like, I am one of the best time trialists in the world. And I wasn’t. I’m not.”
“Geraint Thomas sent me a message and said, ‘I’ve done 108 Grand Tour stages and never won one, you’ve done it in eight.’ I very much thought that I was suddenly something pretty special, took my eye off the ball and it bit me in the arse.”
Adapting to Movistar's methods, wanting more
Since that career-defining triumph Dowsett has had mixed campaigns with the Spanish team, which still has faith in him, delivering on its promises of starts at the Giro, Tour de France and assistance targeting the Hour Record, which he held before Wiggins beat his distance.
“I’d say we get 70 per cent of the race programme that we ask for, which is kind of a dream scenario,” Dowsett said.
“I've had to do a fair bit of bouncing back and I’m starting to get quite tired of it. I’d just like to have a bit of consistency and that’s one thing I’ve showed, that I’m not consistent.”
“I either go to Poland and win the TT at the end, or don’t finish the easiest of races because I’m not good enough, or something has gone wrong, or I got sick. I’ve just been annoyingly inconsistent and I know that I can be more.”
The transition from the highly-regimented Team Sky to Eusebio Unzue’s long established Movistar was an adjustment, though one Dowsett has learned through “trial and error”, and now asks for more internal support.
“I came to Movistar fairly arrogant in that I’d come from two of the best development programmes in the world and then had two years at Team Sky. I came in feeling like I knew it all, topped off with the Giro [stage victory in 2013] and was like, ‘I do know it all,’” he said.
“Movistar felt a little bit more like organised chaos but I slowly realised that everyone actually knew their stuff. It’s different, but it works.”
A philanthropic mind change
Dowsett’s biggest insight representing the outfit, however, has come through philanthropic ventures, including his charity Little Bleeders, which supports haemophiliacs like himself, and has provided purpose outside of the sport and added incentive within it.
“At the end of 2013 I started up the Miles for Haemophilia Campaign, which is not linked to Little Bleeders, it’s just something that we did. I travelled all around Europe talking about my condition to patients, parents, doctors and to be perfectly honest I knew I was going to make some money out of it,” he said.
“I’d say at the start that was one of the incentives for me. Before then that was a big incentive for me anyway, winning bike races, driving a flash car, earning a lot of money. Massive ego trip basically.”
“The effect of what I do now is on a much bigger scale than winning a push bike race. That’s what keeps me going a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still like a flash car but it’s nowhere near as important in my mind as it used to be. That’s the biggest realisation whilst I’ve been at Movistar, which isn’t related to Movistar it’s just what has happened, a massive mentality change.”
It all serves into what Dowsett hopes this season will be a return to the form he whipped Wiggins with four years ago. He tentatively changed training during the winter, less miles and more intervals, and so far the signs are good.
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