Alex Dowsett has set himself two targets in 2014: to finish the Tour de France and win Commonwealth Games time trial gold in Glasgow.
Dowsett moved from Team Sky to Movistar at the start of the 2013 season in a transfer fuelled by a desire to start a Grand Tour and rewarded his Spanish employer’s with a stage win at the Giro d’Italia in May.
Having earned his stripes as a Grand Tour rider, the 25-year-old has now set his sights on finishing the 101st Tour de France – but first he must get to the start line.
“I want to get in the Tour team and to finish the race,” Dowsett told RoadCyclingUK. “Movistar know my aim is to be at the Tour and they’re fully behind me with it. It’s a case of me proving that I’m worth it. It’s the one race where you really have to earn your place.”
Nairo Quintana is likely to lead Movistar at the race having finished second behind Dowsett’s former Sky team-mate, Chris Froome, on his Tour de France debut in 2013.
But the team will need at least one rouleur in its line-up to protect the featherweight Colombian climber through a largely flat opening week, which includes more than 50km of Paris-Roubaix cobbles on stage five, and Dowsett believes he is the man for the job.
“I tick that box where there’s work to be done on the flat,” said Dowsett. “I’m good at keeping someone safe at the front of the bunch as well. That’s where I come in but we’ve got a few guys in the team who can do that job and I need to prove I’m worth taking for that particular role.”
The Tour de France will be uncharted territory for Dowsett but the route for the third stage will not be. The 159km parcours from Cambridge to London passes through Dowsett’s home county, Essex, en-route to the capital and the Maldon-born rider, who is based is one of the few British WorldTour riders to be based in the UK full-time, admits the chance to ride the Tour on home roads is a “one-off”.
“I train on the middle section [of the stage] where it comes into Essex and goes over the top of Chelmsford,” he said. “There’s not going to be a lot to gain by the fact I’ve ridden the roads but it’ll be a bit surreal to ride the biggest race in the world on the roads I ride on a day-to-day basis.”
Dowsett’s dual ambitions in 2014 go hand-in-hand – the Tour will finish on Sunday July 27, with the Commonwealth Games time trial set to take place four days later on the final day of a month Dowsett admits could be “a pretty special time.”
Should Dowsett earn a place in Movistar’s nine-man Tour line-up, and subsequently finish the race, he says he will arrive in Glasgow “either on my hands and knees or flying – hopefully the latter”.
“Hopefully I can turn my Delhi silver into a gold,” he said. The Englishman finished second behind David Millar, riding for Scotland, in the Indian city, on a podium which also included Australia’s Luke Durbridge.
“The Commonwealth Games is a mini-Olympics,” added Dowsett. “In terms of public support it’s massive. It’s really in the British public’s heart and it’s effectively a home Games so it’ll be good to do something really big.”
Dowsett describes his first season at Movistar as one of “massive highs and massive lows”, having beaten Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) to victory on the stage eight time trial of the Giro d’Italia but otherwise been “plagued by bad luck”.
“I guess it’s part and parcel of the sport,” said Dowsett. “I’d rather have it that way round rather than just an Average Joe season but next year I’d like to have a bit more consistency and get some more results to prove that I can consistently be where I was at with the Giro.
“Obviously I had my biggest result to date at the Giro, and retaining my national title was good, but finishing the Giro was for me probably bigger than winning the stage as my original aim was to complete the race and I achieved that.”
Dowsett’s “massive low” came at the World Championships in September where, having been expected to compete at the sharp end of the race, he finished 41st and nearly six minutes behind Germany powerhouse Tony Martin.
However, Dowsett says this year has been about moving him on as a bike rider and, as a rider who grew up as part of the British Cycling system, leaving the comfort of Team Sky has paid off.
“I rode all the Classics – I didn’t do very well, but I rode them all, which I had never done before – and I didn’t just ride the first Grand Tour but I rode the Grand Tour that suited me best and won a stage,” said Dowsett.
“Nothing against Sky but they had different aims for the Giro than Movistar did. I don’t think I would have fitted in that Sky team which shows to me that it was exactly the right move.
“Next year I’m looking at a Tour de France spot and if I’d had another year with Sky where I hadn’t ridden a Grand Tour then I certainly wouldn’t be looking at a Tour de France start for my first Grand Tour.”
The year 2013 has been one of firsts for Dowsett, with his first Grand Tour start and first Grand Tour stage, now, with 2014 on the horizon, he is all guns blazing for his first Tour de France start.