It’s being marketed as the Perfect Hour and it even has its own Twitter hashtag, but for Alex Dowsett the Hour Record attempt is about more than just the 60 minutes of pain he will be forced to endure on a track in London on February 27.
At a sports bar in London’s snazzy West End, Dowsett’s first utterance is not about distance, the one-of-a-kind bike Canyon have put together for him, or his training. Instead it’s about his off-season and the time he spent spreading awareness for the haemophiliac community.
Dowsett was born with the condition and has battled through to become of the best British cyclists of his generation, defying medical advice and stereotypes along the way.
“My haemophilia is why I’m here as a professional cyclist,” he said during his press conference on Friday.
“I was told that rugby, boxing, and football were not the wisest sports, so I set out to find something that I could do and if I didn’t have haemophilia I probably wouldn’t have ridden a bike. The young haemophiliacs that I’ve met, they’re constantly told what they can’t do, and I’m sick of it. That’s why we’re attempting the Perfect Hour and that makes it a much bigger picture than whether I break or fail it. Obviously I’m going to go out there and give it my absolute everything and hope that it’s enough but really if it inspires one kid to do something that they thought they couldn’t do then that would be a success.”
Dowsett has trained for the record during the off-season and winter, and has the full backing of his Movistar employers who have told him to concentrate on nothing but his track endeavour. The Spanish squad has history with the record, which was once held and twice attempted by Eusebio Unzue’s one-time protégé Miguel Indurain in the mid-1990s.
Unzue was on hand in London to give his backing to Dowsett, a rider he plucked from Team Sky three years ago due to the rider’s potential against the clock. And while history provides a certain context to the story, the main narrative that separates Dowsett from the flurry of other Hour attempts that will take place at the start of 2015 is his personal mission.
“I want to tell you about my off-season this year because I well and truly had my eyes opened. Growing up with haemophilia was difficult although it was perhaps more difficult for my parents than it was for me. It’s a rare condition and something that my mum and dad had to learn about quite quickly. It was a gloomy outlook for them and there was talk of wheelchairs, crutches, fusing joints because of internal bleeding and there wasn’t really a positive way of looking at it,” he said.
“Mum and dad cared for me extremely well and all the predicted outcomes are a far cry from the Alex that you see today. During my off-season I travelled around Europe with the Miles for Haemophilia campaign and the idea was simply to spread awareness of Haemophilia and to promote a healthy lifestyle. It was a big success and what I was doing was going to countries and telling my story and how I got to where I am today and I didn’t realise the amount of hope the story was giving.
“To have a mother of a haemophiliac child from Portugal come up to me and give me a hug just because of what you’ve done on a bicycle is difficult to put into words, the feelings it gives you. For me it far outweighed any bike race victory, fast car I could buy, this to me was much bigger.”
Yet racing is where Dowsett makes his name and the Giro d’Italia stage winner is well aware that his attempt will help to inspire children suffering with the same condition he has. Having grown up on the track and with his natural talent against the clock, an assault on the Hour Record seemed natural.
“So the question was what more could we do and what could we do next. The better I do on a bike the more it inspires the haemophilia society. Everyone understands a world record, the concept of putting yourself on the line and attempting something that will be very difficult is a message that goes out to the haemophilia and rare disease community quite strongly,” he explained.
“The Hour Record is something that I’ve always looked at and it’s something that has always interested me. It would have always been for me but it’s this off-season has given me a whole new sense of drive because I know what it’s going to do in the community and the message it’s going to send out. I’m not really doing this for me; I’m doing it for any haemophiliac child who is told that they can’t play football, they can’t play rugby and they can’t do anything high risk. Basically, it’s for anyone that’s told they can’t do something because of a factor that’s out of their control.”