Dowsett unsure of Tour de France selection

Alex Dowsett was the last rider out on the time trial course at the British road championships on Thursday, so didn't have that nervy wait that some have to endure before they find out they've won. He is, however, on tenterhooks over whether he has made it into Movistar's nine-man roster for the Tour de France, something he concedes is touch and go.

"I'd say it’s 50/50 whether I'm going to go or not," Dowsett told Cyclingnews after pulling on his fourth national champion's jersey. "I'm good on the flat, not very good on the climbs. If I don't go I wont be happy but I'll know I've done everything I can within the time frame."

Movistar's ambitions at the Tour revolve around Nairo Quintana’s bid for the yellow jersey – with Alejandro Valverde a back-up general classification option – and Dowsett would be going as a pure domestique, despite the short opening time trial in Utrecht.

The 26-year-old has had a successful season so far, breaking the UCI Hour Record and winning the first stage race of his career at Bayern Rundhfart, both in May. However, it is that former, most notable achievement that Dowsett fears may in fact work against him when it comes to Tour selection.

"My problem is that everyone has been preparing all year for the Tour de France," he said. "The only thing I should have done differently is not doing the Hour, if I wanted a pure focus on the Tour.

"I wouldn’t have changed this year at all but the Hour record took some getting over. My body composition was different than I expected, I was 3-4 kilos heavier, had a lot of muscle on me that I didn't need for going up a mountain, so it's been difficult turning that around."

After the Hour Record, Dowsett raced the Bayern Rundfahrt and tried to get in the sort of shape required for a mountainous three-week Grand Tour, shaving off muscle that had built up particularly on his back.

He then raced both the Critérium du Dauphiné – where he pulled out on stage 6 – and then Route du Sud in order to prove himself to the Movistar management. While he admits he was sluggish on the climbs at the Dauphiné, he was pleased with his form and the way he was able to support Quintana at the Route du Sud.

"In both races I was very good on the flat," he told Cyclingnews. "I could keep Valverde and Quintana up the near the front when they needed to be, which I know went down well.

"But in the Dauphiné I was useless on the climbs, but then better in the Route du Sud. So [there was] improvement but it's just whether it's enough."

Despite Dowsett's eagerness to go to the Tour, it wouldn't be a season-defining blow were he to miss out. He insists he wouldn't have changed the structure that brought him that Hour Record and that if it were to be over tomorrow his season would be a qualified success.

"I've done everything in my power. If nothing else happens this year, I've won my first stage race, I've won a stage of a stage race, I've won nationals, taken the Hour record. It's been a good season if nothing else happens.

"Obviously I'll be disappointed if I don't go to the Tour but I know I'd have done what I can."

Dowsett signed with Movistar for 2013 and was dropped straight into his first Grand Tour at the Giro d'Italia, where he impressed with a huge victory on the long 54.8km time trial. He beat Bradley Wiggins and other esteemed names that day and given the nature of the performance, and the reputation he has built for himself, it is perhaps surprising he hasn't ridden a Grand Tour since.

"Last year I was more or less in the Tour de France, and I just got ill on day two of the Tour de Suisse," he said. "It was a choice of two evils – I could have either have pulled out and recovered but then risked not going, or finish the Tour de Suisse and hope the cold would go, but it just didn't shift.

"Movistar have been incredible to me, when they picked me up in 2013 they said 'we'll stick you straight in a Grand Tour that suits you', which was the Giro, 'and then you'll do the Tour de France the year after'. I was in that Tour until I got ill – I wouldn't have taken me if I was them either."

Dowsett’s season will take shape in the next couple of days but either way he’ll be looking ahead to the world road championships in Richmond in September and a time trial course that he reckons will play to his strengths.

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.