Alex Dowsett interview: It's been great fun at Movistar but it's time for a change - Road Cycling UK

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Alex Dowsett interview: It’s been great fun at Movistar but it’s time for a change

Five-time British time-trial champion on Katusha-Alpecin, sticking with Canyon and joining forces with Tony Martin and Marcel Kittel

Alex Dowsett says his time at Movistar turned him from a ‘kid’ into an experienced bike rider, but insists the time is right to be moving on.

Five-time national time trial champion Dowsett, who turned 29 on October 3, will join Katusha-Alpecin next season, ending a five-year stay with the Spanish team.

And with Movistar now centred on Nairo Quintana’s Grand Tour ambitions, as opposed to individual opportunities – something which cost the Essex-born rider a place at the Giro d’Italia this season – Dowsett is relishing the very different opportunities afforded to him by his move.

After five years with Movistar, Alex Dowsett will be moving to Katusha-Alpecin in the winter (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

“I gained a huge amount of experience from Movistar, and over my time there I’ve won a stage of a Grand Tour, rode the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix, broken the hour record, picked up usually one or two wins a year and been part of what has really felt like a family,” he reflects.

“It’s been great fun but it’s been five years and sometimes it’s time for a change; a change for a new impetus.

“Movistar has changed. When we went to the Giro back in 2013 there was me, Benat [Intxausti], [Giovanni] Visconti… there was a bunch of race winners. There was no real leader.

Dowsett cites a change in the team dynamic at Movistar as the biggest factor in his decision to move (Pic: Sirotti)

“Now they have Valverde – they’ve always had him, but now in the Grand Tours he is much stronger – and Nairo has really come to the fore while I’ve been there. The dynamic of the team has changed massively.

“We go to Grand Tours now with one race winner and eight guys who can help. Your basis for going is how well you can help, and suddenly my ability to top five, podium, maybe win a stage in the time trial becomes a very small reason for me being in the Grand Tour team.

I do have a talent on a time trial bike, and I do have a talent to set an hour record, so I’m not quite ready to go down that full-blown domestique route

“You have guys on the team who go out in the morning to train, and they train to ride the front and to not win races.

“I’m more than happy to do that, but I do have a talent on a time trial bike, and I do have a talent to set an hour record, so I’m not quite ready to go down that full-blown domestique route.”

Dowsett was a member of the British Cycling Academy, before spending a year with Axel Merckx’s Trek-Livestrong development team in America in 2010.

His success there led to two seasons at Team Sky, before he joined Movistar in 2013 with the aim of riding Grand Tours – and was rewarded immediately with victory against the clock at the Giro d’Italia that season.

Dowsett won a stage of the Giro d’Italia at his maiden Grand Tour in 2013… but he has only raced one Grand Tour since (Pic: Sirotti)

Opportunities on the biggest stage have been limited since then, however, through a combination of non-selection and bad luck with injuries.

Dowsett’s Tour de France debut in 2015 is his only Grand Tour since, having missed out on selection for the Yorkshire Grand Depart the year before, and, the TT specialist admits, is a major part of his reason to move.

Alex Dowsett, Movistar, attack, climb, out of saddle, pic - Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
Alex Dowsett, Movistar, climb, pic - Sirotti
Alex Dowsett, Movistar, break, national road race, pic - Alex Whitehead-SWpix.com

“It’s something I’ve lacked in recent years: last year through ending up on an operating table at the wrong time and this year just selection,” he says.

“I put everything into going to the Giro this year and I wasn’t taken. And that was a real blow for me. When you put so much work in and then sit in May and do nothing.”

He adds: “My form was put into trying to get an 18 round the Maldon 10 course [his local time trial]. While the Giro is on there’s nothing, it’s a month off, so I had to re-find some targets.

I put everything into going to the Giro this year and I wasn’t taken. And that was a real blow for me

“It’s hard to train when there’s nothing to train for, and after the Giro non-selection it has been the story of this year which was a shame.

“As I said, the dynamic has changed at Movistar – it was eight domestiques and Nairo. If I was management, I’d have made the same decision perhaps but as a rider it’s time to move forwards.”

The move to Katusha-Alpecin will also see Dowsett bid to reprise a role he first experienced during his time with Team Sky, particularly in Mark Cavendish’s solitary season with the team in 2012.

Fellow new signing Marcel Kittel will spear-head the team’s sprinting charge, with Dowsett looking to slot into the lead-out train alongside the likes of Rick Zabel and Tony Martin.

And Dowsett says it is a role he is looking forward to, having enjoyed performing a similar job earlier in his career.

Alongside targetting individual success, Dowsett hopes to put his firepower to use in Marcel Kittel’s lead-out train (Pic: The Tour)

“A massive part of it will be the lead-out train for Marcel Kittel. With Team Sky, especially with Cav, that was something I could do well and really enjoyed as well,” he admits.

“I’m excited to be part of that as well. I think my talents lie more in a lead-out train than in a GC helper role.

“What the plans are for next year, I don’t know. But if I prove myself to the team and to Kittel as a crucial part of the lead-out train, then you’re looking at the Tour de France.”

Alex Dowsett, Movistar, Tour of Britain, 2017, time trial, aero, Canyon Speedmax, pic - Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

The move, which Dowsett says went through quickly once the team knew he was available and he knew they were looking, eradicates one common problem often borne of moving teams too.

Having spent the last four of his five seasons with Movistar riding a Canyon bike, including working closely with the German firm as he set the UCI Hour Record in 2015, Dowsett will again be aboard the Speedmax when it comes to time trial action.

“It makes it’s easier to be with Canyon again,” he confesses. “Next year, I’m already losing [kit sponsor] Endura – though I’m sure whoever Katusha have will be good, we don’t operate at the level we do without good equipment.

“But as a pro, you are used to taking a hit on equipment. Some people prefer to ride Campag over Shimano, for example, but if you’re on a team you don’t get a choice.

In moving to another Canyon-sponsored team, Dowsett will still have the Speedmax time trial bike at his disposal next season (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWPix.com)

“Gone are the days when you could ride a Zipp disc and stick it up as a Bontrager like Discovery Channel used to do. There are too many people with cameras who put it up on social media to get away with that nowadays.

“So, you always are nervous going on to new kit. For me, is the time trial bike going to be fast enough? And this way, it’s not a concern for me at all.

“I’m going to switch from the Aeroad to the Ultimate [road bikes], but staying on the Speedmax is massive. You’ve only got to look at how many have copied it… everyone’s using the Canyon as a model because it works well and it’s fast.”

By the time next season finishes, Dowsett will be 30 but he plays down suggestions that he has reached a crucial point in his career with what, to many, is the peak years approaching.

“Every year seems like a crucial year. If it’s contract year it’s crucial, if it’s not contract year then you want to prove you’re not just someone who only performs in contract year,” he insists.

“It’s a short window that we’re pro cyclists and you want to make the most of it. I’ve got six seasons left. Six more opportunities to get in the Tour de France, six more opportunities to get around Paris-Roubaix, two more opportunities to go to the Olympics. It’s not long.

Dowsett has played down the importance of the next season – insisting all are important as he bids to achieve six more seasons at the top level (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

“Every season is important. Every season has its ups and downs and we just have to really make the most of it.”

It certainly rings true that each of Dowsett’s seasons as a pro rider have been littered with ups and downs, but with a new team and renewed ambitions, the Essex man has a fresh opportunity to grasp now.

His last big move started with a bang, thanks to Giro stage success, so could this one too? “I have a good feeling about it,” Dowsett concludes.

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