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Alex Dowsett: ‘The biggest failure today would have been to have never tried’

Alex Dowsett during his UCI Hour Record attempt on November 3, 2021 at the at Aguascalientes velodrome in Mexico
Alex Dowsett ready to start his UCI Hour Record attempt on November 3, 2021 at the at Aguascalientes velodrome in Mexico (Image credit: Jesus Gonzalez)

Alex Dowsett’s attempt to break the UCI Hour Record set by Victor Campenaerts didn’t succeed on Wednesday, nor did he beat the British record but he did meet his biggest goal, to raise haemophilia awareness.

In fact even as the 33-year-old who has the inherited bleeding disorder fell short on the record distance of 55.089km – covering 54.555km – donations kept rolling into the fundraising page for the Haemophilia Society set up for the event. The amount raised – £22,356.10 and counting – far exceeded the target of £15,000.

“The biggest failure today would have been to have never tried and that’s the message I want to send out,” said Dowsett after the attempt. “I spent my childhood being told what I couldn’t do. My mum, my dad, and I, we knew what we couldn’t do – football, rugby, boxing – so we set about finding what we could do. We turned a negative into an absolute positive and I’ve been able to carve a massive career out of adversity.

“That should be the message. Life can throw you a bad hand at times but it’s what you make of it. It’s how you deal with it.”

The winner of two stages of the Giro d'Italia and six-time British time-trial champion once held the UCI Hour Record, for a little over a month. Dowsett set a mark of 52.937km in May of 2015 in Manchester before Bradley Wiggins topped it in June by riding 54.526km in the hour. A number of attempts were made after Wiggins delivered that time but it wasn’t until Campenaerts came along that the record fell again, with the Belgian covering 55.089km on April 16, 2019. 

Other have tried to better the record since but Campenaerts’ distance has so far stood firm in the face of these challenges. What has been bettered, though, is the British record which had long been held by Wiggins, with Dan Bingham in October covering 54.723km. That meant that while Dowsett topped Wiggins mark, as well as his own from 2015, the distance of 54.555km left him short of the new national record too. 

Dowsett said before the attempt that in 2015 he’d done what he needed to in order to break the UCI Hour Record but knew he had more in the tank at the end, which was frustrating. This time, however, after putting so much effort in he wasn’t left wondering. 

“That’s as far as I can go and I’m proud of that and the distance that I managed to cover today but the most important point today was the awareness that we’ve brought to haemophilia,” said Dowsett. 

In 2016 Dowsett set up a charity to encourage young people with bleeding disorders to participate in sport, particularly swimming and cycling, as a way of managing their condition.

“With my charity Little Bleeders we set up the sports fund and especially through COVID it’s been such a tough time for families because money has been tight,” said Dowsett. “We’ve had countless messages from parents who have said they’ve struggled to get their kids to swimming classes because the money isn’t there and that’s what we’re trying to do with the charity, provide that small amount of help through our Just Giving page.

“That’s what today was about, success or failure, I threw my hat in the ring and I tried.”

Dowsett’s Just Giving page, which is accepting donations for the Haemophilia Society, can be found here.