Alex Dowsett (Sky) enjoyed a fine start to his professional career at the prologue of the Tour of Qatar in Doha. The Englishman rode to fifth place and took possession of the white jersey for best young rider ahead of the opening road stage of the event.
With a palmares that includes the European Under 23 time trial championship and a time trial silver medal from the Commonwealth Games, Dowsett has a strong pedigree against the watch, but he admitted that he did not expect to beat the highly-fancied Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Cervélo) to the race's first white jersey. Bobridge had arrived in Doha just days after breaking Chris Boardman's 1996 world pursuit record.
"It never crossed my mind, I just thought there was a chance I might go well as I'd done well in short time trials last year," Dowsett told Cyclingnews after receiving his white jersey. "It was actually Kurt-Asle Arvesen who kept saying to me I could do well here. I didn't even know there was a young rider's jersey until last night and then I thought with Bobridge here it would be out of the question."
Dowsett was joined in the top five of the stage by teammate Juan Antonio Flecha, and both men finished within six seconds of winner Lars Boom (Rabobank). While Dowsett was pleased with his own achievement, he was quick to stress that his performance was very much a collective effort and he paid tribute to the team spirit he has encountered at Sky.
"It's nice, there's no competitiveness within the team," he said. "In a time trial, everybody wants to do a good ride, but in some teams it's quite easy to hold back things that you think about the course that might benefit someone, but here everybody tells everybody everything and you just collect that knowledge together.
"We have two riders in the top five as a result of that. There were some riders who were better suited to this sort of short technical prologue than others, so it just shows what Team Sky is about."
Like stage winner Lars Boom, Dowsett made concessions to the technical nature of the cobbled course in choosing his equipment for Sunday's time trial.
"First thing we figured this morning was that it wasn't a course for real high tyre pressures," he said. "We went out with deep section wheels first as well, but we all realised that perhaps there were only maybe a couple of sections where being aero was an advantage so bike-handling was far more important, exit speeds from corners, everything."
One of those corners was to cost Dowsett some time during his effort, but he acknowledged that almost every rider in the field would have encountered similar difficulties.
"At the halfway point I was on a similar time to Flecha, and then I stuffed up one of the final corners," he told Cyclingnews. "I overshot it and had to slam my brakes on the exit and that potentially cost me a second or two.
"But I'm sure it's the sort of course where everyone is going to be able to say 'I messed up this bit' or 'I messed up that bit.'"
Dowsett begins Monday's stage with a three-second advantage over Roger Kluge in the young riders' classification, but he said it was too early to say if he would attempt to defend his jersey.
"I haven't the foggiest," he said. "We'll just sit down tonight and see what Steven De Jongh has to say about it."
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Barry Ryan is European Editor 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.