Dowsett settles into new role in Kittel lead-out train

During his time at Movistar, Alex Dowsett's strengths as a rouleur meant that he was often placed on bodyguard duty on flat stages, shielding and shepherding men like Nairo Quintana in the body of the peloton.

At Katusha-Alpecin, the Briton's characteristics are proving just as useful, albeit deployed in a rather different manner, as part of the lead-out train of fellow new arrival Marcel Kittel. Dowsett's ability to hold top-end speed means that he plays a role towards the front on the run-in, but Marco Haller et al step up to the plate to pilot Kittel into the finish straight.

"I'm really enjoying it so far. I've got a really cool job, it's something to really work hard towards, although it's a bit of a shock to the system being back in a lead-out," Dowsett said at the Abu Dhabi Tour this week. "They've changed a lot in the last five years. Now everyone can lead out, but no single team can control by themselves, so it's more about trying to look after the team, while saving a bit of energy for the end, when every team just opens the taps. It's just frighteningly fast in the last 3k."

Kittel's early outings for Katusha have not worked out quite as planned, though there were encouraging signs aplenty in his second place finish on stage 3 on Friday. 24 hours earlier, Dowsett and his red guard were very much to the fore when the peloton swung into crosswinds in the final hour of stage 2, and they briefly helped to split the race into three echelons.

"We all knew there was a possibility of crosswind stuff, and when everybody knows there's a possibility of crosswind stuff, then there's crosswind stuff," Dowsett said. "We wanted to be on the front going into it in case it happened and then we went. All bar one of us were there, which is great for morale, so it was a productive day even though it came back together."

Dowsett might enjoy a productive day of his own on stage 4, a pan-flat 12.6km time trial at Al Maryah Island, though he dismissed the idea that he might have been given licence to save his legs during Friday's stage.

"No, absolutely not, and the time trial's only 12k. It's the first one of the year. I've also had my TT bike robbed, so I haven't ridden it that much," Dowsett said.

"We take each day as it comes, we'll think about the time trial on the day, but it's all guns blazing for Marcel and Zak before that. When it's a sort of bog standard bunch sprint day, then I only have to do 1 or 2k on the front hard, so I can't be complaining too much."


Dowsett was a regular in Movistar's cobbled Classics squad over his five-year tenure on the team, in part because of his aptitude and but also because of his attitude. Stretching back to his days as Reynolds and Banesto, Eusebio Unzue has never found too many willing volunteers for the delights of a Flemish April among his charges.

"It's no secret that at Movistar, they say, 'Who wants to do the Classics?' and everyone sort of sits on their hands. They say, 'Who wants to do the Vuelta?' and everybody jumps up and down," Dowsett said.

Katusha is a squad where places in the Classics line-up are at rather more of a premium, but Dowsett will see his share of action in March and April. In particular, he will is intrigued by the prospect of riding Paris-Roubaix having prepared more specifically for the challenge of the Hell of the North.

"I'm actually quite excited for Roubaix because each time I've done it before, I've come off the Circuit de la Sarthe and having a four-day stage race in your legs just two days out from Roubaix probably isn't the most ideal preparation," Dowsett said. "So it will be cool to see what I can do there."

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