The 28-year-old finished ninth as a world-class international field descended on his home county – where he still lives – to take on a traditional staple of the British cycling scene, a 'club 10', as he repeatedly referred to it. As if it wasn't British enough, the out-and-back course started and finished next to a Toby Carvery.
Dowsett (Movistar) was very much the centre of attention in Clacton-on-Sea, where camera crews, fans, family, girlfriend and friends were all vying for his attention in the build-up to his ride. In the end, the fairytale script never played out but he gave a solid account of himself in a stacked field, and the significance of the day was evident as he wheeled back to a now-nearly empty team paddock area and took several moments to compose himself.
"It's an emotional day because this is a once in a lifetime, once in a career thing," Dowsett said. "It's a bit like the Hour Record, it happens once and it's magic. Today is one of them.
"The support out on the road was something else. It's just amazing to hear so many people cheering my name, it's amazing to be doing this in Essex, it's just amazing to be living the life I lead to be honest. We're in a super privileged position to be doing something we love as a job. I'll forever be thankful to all the people who got me here - that's everyone from my family, my friends, the haemophiliac doctors, and everyone that's been involved in making it possible for haemophiliacs to do what I can do now. I've said it many a time, if I was born 15 years earlier I'd be in a very different position. If I win or lose, I win because of what I'm able to do."
Dowsett acknowledged that it was "very easy to get carried away early on", and indeed he made a strong start to the race, posting the second fastest time at the mid-way checkpoint. His girlfriend was behind him in the Movistar team car, and she grabbed hold of the radio to shout, 'You've got this!'
From there, though, he lost a few seconds in the headwind coming back along the coast, and stopped the clock on 19:24, 21 seconds down on winner Lars Boom (LottoNL-Jumbo) and good enough for a spot in the top 10.
"That was pretty good from me, all things considered. Numbers-wise, it's the best club ten I've done. 438 watts – that's pretty bloody good from me," Dowsett said.
"I went out hard, it's one of the toughest wind directions to pace, because you have to go out fast, you have to go out hard but you do have to leave some for the return. If you go out too easy it doesn't matter how fresh you are, averaging 30mph into a headwind is nigh on impossible. It's a case of going out hard and having to hang on. You have to run the finest of lines with it."
Dowsett described the 10-mile distance – and he's a regular at local club tens when he's not away racing – as "the Milan-San Remo" of time trialling, bringing the "prologue guys" together with the specialists in a finely balanced equation.
Looking down at that mixture in the top 10, which included current and four-time world champion Tony Martin, his predecessor Vasil Kiryienka, and European champion Victor Campenaerts, along with Lars Boom, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Stefan Kung, he had no complaints.
"You obviously want to cross the line knowing you're first, but look at the riders here. Take the fact we're in Essex, the fact we're in the Tour of Britain, the fact I'm an Essex boy, out of the equation, and you have a field here where top 10 is a struggle," he said.
"Off the top of my head, we're only missing [Tom] Dumoulin, [Chris] Froome, and [Rohan] Dennis. We've got a World Championships field. This is a seriously world-class field. Maybe the Tour de France time trial, or the World Champs are the two fields that might rival this, and I don't think anyone would disagree with that."
The barriers, marquees, and podiums in Clacton were quickly dismantled after the stage and moved on to the next town. Even if he has to follow his team to the next hotel in the next county along, Dowsett won't be moving on so quickly.
"It's been a day I'll never forget," he concluded.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. 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 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, 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.