Dowsett happy to escape in the breakaway in Beijing

Even 5,000 miles from home at the Tour of Beijing, Alex Dowsett (Sky) was aware that he was in the eye of a media storm in his native Britain when he lined up for stage 4 on Friday morning.

At the start the previous day, Dowsett had commented somewhat carelessly on USADA's reasoned decision on the Lance Armstrong case, stating that the American "was still a legend of the sport" in spite of the overwhelming evidence presented in the 1,000-page dossier that he had doped to win all of his Tours de France.

That evening, Dowsett had moved to clarify his stance in an interview with BBC radio, saying that the "legend" comment had been in relation to Armstrong's cancer support work rather than his discredited cycling achievements. By that point, however, the damage had already been done, with Dowsett's initial statement taking up significant column inches in some British newspapers, who highlighted that he had ridden for the Trek-Livestrong team as an under-23.

Perhaps keen for a distraction from that developing maelstrom, Dowsett duly infiltrated the early break on stage 4 of the Tour of Beijing. The five-man move spent most of the day off the front before being swept up ahead of a bunch sprint in Changping, where Marco Haller (Katusha) emerged victorious.

"It was nice to get in the break today after my balls-up yesterday in the press," Dowsett said afterwards. "I said a few things about the Armstrong case that were misinterpreted. After that, it was nice to have a bit of a showing today to end the season on a bit of a high.

"Certainly if there was ever a day and a break that was going to stick it was going to be today, and there was nobody high on GC in the breakaway either. But the bunch still wanted a sprint. I actually sat on the breakaway at the end so I could drop back and help Eddy [Boasson Hagen] because he's not far off third and there's bonus seconds at stake."

Dowsett had endured something of a troubled season even before this week's harsh lesson in the accelerated realities of the multimedia age. The second-year professional broke his elbow in a fall at the Tour of West Flanders in March, an injury which meant for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

"It certainly hasn't been a progression year," he said. "It's been a learning year in a lot of senses. I've always been a rider who has tended to have either lucky or unlucky seasons, but hopefully maybe I've reached a plateau now. I'll just look to get a good winter under the belt.

The team Dowsett rides for after the winter remains to be confirmed, however. Although the 24-year-old is believed to have been offered an extension at Sky, at least one other WorldTour team has made significant overtures. "I can't say anything yet," Dowsett said of his 2013 situation.

In the meantime, Dowsett can perhaps be grateful for small mercies. With Twitter blocked in China, he has likely been spared some of the more venomous reactions to his Armstrong comments.

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.