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Giro d'Italia: Alex Dowsett claims potential career-saving stage win

Team Israel StartUp Nation rider Englands Alex Dowsett celebrates as he crosses the line for victory during the 8th stage of the Giro dItalia 2020 cycling race a 200kilometer route between Giovinazzo and Vieste on October 10 2020 Photo by Luca Bettini AFP Photo by LUCA BETTINIAFP via Getty Images
Israel Start-Up Nation’s Alex Dowsett wins stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia (Image credit: Getty Images)

Wins have rarely been as timely as Saturday’s victory for Alex Dowsett on stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia as the British racer soloed to Israel Start-Up Nation’s biggest-ever triumph in the team’s seven-year history.

Without a team for 2021, and soon to be a father, Dowsett’s victory is also of massive personal significance, as the British rider seeks to continue his career in the WorldTour. A stage win in Italy’s Grand Tour, the second of his career, has undoubtedly placed the 32-year-old in the virtual ‘shop window’ for teams looking for riders.

Given the instant and considerable raising of his profile thanks to Saturday’s win, the British time trial champion and former UCI Hour Record holder reflected wryly afterwards that it was a “kind of shame that my biggest feeling as I crossed the line was not joy but one of relief, as I’m out of contract for 2020”.

“But when I think back on this win, I’ll surely think of this as an incredible thing to have experienced.”

Part of a day-long break of six before breaking away with around 18 kilometres to go, Dowsett repeatedly thanked teammate Matthias Brandle, also in the move, for his collaboration, saying, “Having him there was crucial – either of us could have won – and we were both very invested in it, as long as one of us did.

“And it’s a big step up for the team, fighting for this victory. Every day we’ve been planning how to win. Today it was quite a loose plan but it worked out fine.”

He also thanked sports director Nicki Sørensen for encouraging both him and Brandle to get back on terms with the rest of the break after they had been dropped on the first of two ascents of the finishing circuit’s main challenge – a steep, kilometre-long climb with ramps of up to 17 per cent.

“When we were dropped, he urged us on, and kept on saying it wasn’t over yet. Then when we got back on, both Matthias and me went on the attack, and it could just have easily been him that won as me.”

Soon to become a father, Dowsett recognised that while he feels very fortunate to be a bike rider, his current predicament of being out of a job in 2021 had done anything but keep him calm during the Giro, which – given that it’s his last race of the season – had all the feel of a last-chance saloon.

“We are so privileged to call this a job, because it’s not a real job. We race pushbikes for a living, but it’s what I do,” Dowsett argued. 

“But the worry of having a baby and the possibility of not being able to provide made the whole thing very stressful. So this win is very much a relief, as hopefully, now, I’ll get something secured for next year.”