Alex Dowsett is of one of the few British WorldTour professionals to be based in the UK full-time.
Team Sky’s Welsh duo, Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe, train in Nice, Tour de France champion Chris Froome is a bike ride away from them in Monaco, BMC Racing’s Steve Cummings lives in Tuscany, where Mark Cavendish also has a house, while David Millar is one of many Garmin riders to reside in Girona.
Having returned to training to prepare for his second year with Movistar, and the prospect of a British winter while many choose to migrate south to warmer climes, is Dowsett tempted to join them? “Not really,” the three-time British time trial champion told RoadCyclingUK.
“If you look at the Giro d’Italia, and the weather we had there, the last three people to put gloves on in the grupetto were Cav, myself and Adam Blythe. Cav and I spend a lot of time in Essex, training in the cold, and there’s something in that. Obviously there are advantages to training in the warm but there are also advantages to training in the cold.”
Dowsett, who having survived a snow-blown Giro braved a rain-hit Tour of Britain, is based in Essex and his local training roads will be used when stage three of the 2014 Tour de France passes through the county en-route to London having spent the opening two days of the 101st Grande Boucle in Yorkshire.
“Everyone has this perception of England being wet all the time but I haven’t ridden in the rain since I started back training,” said Dowsett, who is targeting a spot in Movistar’s Tour line-up having marked his Grand Tour debut with a stage win at the Giro. “That’s not because I’ve avoided it but there’s only been one wet day since I started training and I took a rest day. Ten degrees and cloudy is perfectly adequate for training.”
Back on the bike
Dowsett got back on the bike on November 14, one month after his final race of a season which started in Majorca in February and ended with the Tour of Beijing in October, where he helped team-mate Beñat Intxausti to overall victory and, in the process, Movistar to the top of the UCI WorldTour rankings.
“The end of my season wasn’t fantastic, I had a lot of illness, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to start training, but I’m a couple of weeks in and the sensations are pretty good so I’m happy,” said Dowsett, whose 2014 season is likely to start in the Middle East with the Tours of Qatar and Oman in February.
“But to win the Tour of Beijing, the last race of the season, was a great feeling and I was able to contribute a fair bit. I felt like I was getting over my illness and back to my best.”
Dowsett joined Movistar at the start of the 2013 season and works closely with coach Xabier Artetxe, focusing on “quality than quantity at the moment,” with his early winter training programme made up of rides of between three and five hours, totaling in the region of 20 and 25 hours in the saddle a week.
“Once we get to the other side of Christmas and the New Year then it will start to get a bit more serious but for now…the work load isn’t colossal.”
Core training is a theme which has recurred throughout RoadCyclingUK’s Training with the Pros series, with Mike Cuming (Rapha Condor JLT), Ryan Mullen (IG-Sigma Sport), Ben Swift (Team Sky), Graham Briggs (Rapha Condor JLT) and now Dowsett underlining the importance of gym work during the winter.
“That’s something I’ve changed with my coach since I’ve been at Movistar. I’m doing more cross training, working on my core stability, doing gym work, going mountain biking,” said Dowsett, who has been working with fitness instructor Andy Doy at Chelmsford’s Riverside gym.
“With core it’s all about providing that stable platform from which to press down on the pedals. Andy’s been looking fairly closely at what a cyclist needs, working with the fitness ball, medicine balls and what not. It’s not that pleasant but it’s got to be done.”
Dowsett says he hasn’t “touched the turbo trainer” since returning to training but is likely to blow the dust off soon in order to build more specific work into his schedule. The 25-year-old spends most of his time on the turbo trainer working at “zone three” – between 70 and 80 per cent maximum heart rate – rather than all-out efforts.
“I don’t like doing that kind of stuff on the turbo because it doesn’t replicate what it feels like on the road,” he said. “It just ends up being demoralising as I can’t hit the numbers on the turbo that I know I can do on the road.”
Dowsett keeps turbo sessions short and focuses mainly on low intensity intervals, while varying the specifics of each session to keep things interesting. Anything other than intervals is “mind-numbingly boring,” he says. Only once has he replicated an endurance ride on the turbo trainer.
“It was really foggy out and my mum was having kittens about me going out on the road so I just sat on the turbo for five hours at 200 watts and watched three films,” he said. “It was just a day where I was super motivated and I could do something like that.
“Because we get so little really bad weather down here then if it’s really foul then I’ll just take a rest day and shuffle things around. It’s wet, I’ll go out on the road, if it’s cold, I’ll go out, if it’s wet and cold, then that’s when you’ve got to think about it.”
With a solid winter in the legs and countless miles on the clock, Dowsett hopes to be racing, not training, on the roads of Essex when the Tour de France rolls into the county in July.
Read more on how to make the most of a turbo trainer session here.