Alex Dowsett is coming towards the end of his current contract with Israel-Premier Tech and, although he'd like to continue in the WorldTour for another couple of seasons, he's already contemplating a life outside the top echelon of professional cycling.
The British rider found himself in the high-stress situation of a late contract search in the pandemic year of 2020 and ended up extending with Israel through 2022. This time, however, he says he's "not scared" of finishing the season and the year without another deal for 2023.
That's because Dowsett says his eyes have been opened to a range of other possibilities, triggered most recently by his participation as a bike-leg pacer in the Sub 7 Sub 8 attempts on the Ironman world records - a similar project to Eliud Kipchoge's sub-two-hour marathon.
"I would be lying if I said it didn't open my eyes and broaden my horizons to a life outside the WorldTour," Dowsett said in his latest YouTube vlog. "What these other events do is make you realise that there are these wonderful competitive sporting communities outside the WorldTour."
That said, Dowsett, 33, indicated that if a new two-year WorldTour deal came his way, he would take it, as what would likely be his final pro contract.
"I feel like I have more to give but not much more," he said. "Another couple of years and I feel like that's my shelf life as an elite pro cyclist coming to an end."
If Dowsett feels the nearing of the end, it's because he's advancing through his 30s in a sport increasingly coloured by youth.
Having turned professional with Sky in 2011, he claimed a breakthrough time trial victory at the 2013 Giro d'Italia and went on to rack up six British TT titles as well as holding the Hour Record for a brief spell in 2015. Despite his contract-saving solo stage win at the 2020 Giro, he has increasingly turned his attentions to supporting others.
"It's becoming increasingly difficult to get a contract, especially as an older rider," he said. "Experience is counting for less and less, I feel. All the teams are shifting - understandably so - into signing much younger riders and at 33 - turning 34 this year - I am not one of them.
"The WorldTour has got harder," he added. "The much younger demographic has brought a much younger style of racing. We saw it at the Giro. It was series of one-days. I've never known a Giro like it. It was fun but brutally tough. We were dropping crazy power numbers just to remain in the game. 10mins at 450 watts for me at 76kg was pretty commonplace, just to remain in the race. So it's got harder but that's the evolution of the sport. It's very cool that I've been involved in over a decade of the WorldTour."
Dowsett does not know what the future holds but is now open to ideas. He listed the US criterium science, the British time trial scene, triathlon, and gravel racing as areas that have piqued his interest.
"I have no idea what's next but I'm actually quite excited for it. I'll just see where the rest of this year takes me and what opportunities open up," he said.
"I'm not scared of not getting another contract. In 2020 I was scared and we had to mentally prepare ourselves for that. Everything fell into place then but that process has made us far less stressed this year. And being part of other events has made me want to broaden my horizons."
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