Alex Dowsett says ‘Ola Movistar’

Alex Dowsett_Movistar_TT

Alex Dowsett will be riding for the venerable Spanish Movistar team in 2013, having not felt enough love from his previous employers, Sky, in 2012. That’s a crude summary of the background to his stepping off the Sky juggernaut; there was no fall-out, no bust-up over cash, no disagreement over ethics, nothing. Dowsett reckoned that for the good of his career he needed to change teams and packed his bags, including some Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons and headed south to seek fortune and glory with Movistar.

OK, he didn’t go seeking fortune. “The money wasn’t important, it was about the last thing to be discussed. In my mind if Sky was going to offer a life changing amount more, then that might have been different, but I had my heart set on Movistar. The deals were more or less the same. For me it was about opportunities, about getting rides in big races,” explains Dowsett.

We spoke with the 24-year-old Essex ‘lad’ in the cavernous dinning room of a Mojacar hotel during pre-season training that had been block booked by cycling teams. The ambiance was decidedly Spanish. Movistar was always the last team to come down to dinner, so late at times you wondered if they had decided to skip dinner as part of drastic weight loss regime. Movistar is Spanish down to its evening meal.

Of course there was never ay danger of insane crash-diets being sanctioned by the team, particularly now that it had taken on five sports scientists and coaches in the off-season. But the fat measuring skin-fold calipers had been out, nipping and pinching. Movistar is investing in some new science, keeping a closer watch over its riders training. “If I had come to the team last year I would have said yes it was a really Spanish team. But I sat through three hours of Pamplona meetings, and I kept hearing the word Sky so the team is clearly playing catch up, although having said that, the Movistar bus is nicer inside than the Sky bus,” laughed Dowsett, which is one area in which Movistar has already overtaken Sky.

“I think everyone is recognising what Sky is doing and playing catch up. You’ve got Mikel Zabala from CRC (a sports science group based at the University of Grenada) and they are now much more scientific approach to the training and collecting all the data. I’m not going to be a mountain goat but if I lose weight to get over the mountains, and still be there that’d be useful. That’s when you need more attention advice and skin folds, I’ve been sort of glad to see the fat calipers, been there five days and been pinched by three or four different people, which is good.”

Dowsett’s main reason for leaving Sky was simply that he felt he’d get more chances away from the team where the focus was on established big hitters. And if you are not a hitter then your job is to ride tempo at the front of a Grand Tour bunch. It’s a state of affairs he understands, but you can’t blame an ambitious rider for wanting to stretch his legs. Dowsett, has stepped away from a safe set-up in the past when he left the British Academy set up to race in America with Trek-Livestrong. For a young British rider to leave Sky of his own volition and go to race in Spain on a team full of climbers is either a sign of a rider confident enough to really push himself or a rider who is borderline delusional.

“If I hadn’t gone through the Livestrong move then it might have been a different kettle of fish, but I stepped away then and I wasn’t scared to step away again,” explains Dowsett, sounding more like a level-headed pro than a swivel-eyed fantasist. “Some riders only know the British system, which is obviously a very good system, but it’s all they know, to stay close and its safe. It’s difficult being the only English-speaking guy here, but I’m making an effort, plus its a team full of climbers and we go out and we do three hours (around Mojacar) and its 3,500m of climbing! It’s like… whatever doesn’t kill you and all that (laughs)…time will tell!”

And, talking of moving out of your comfort zone, there were all manner of barbs fired at Dowsett for joining not only a Spanish team, but also the team led by Alejandro Valverde. Dowsett shrugs and sighs. “It was more the response that my move here got on things like Twitter and Facebook that was upsetting me, just people not seeing the bigger picture. First things first, I will jump up and down all day and say that I’m doing this clean. We’re in a very privileged position to be racing bikes earning more than a decent wage and its I think riders who abuse that don’t deserve to be in the sport and I don’t fully understand why there isn’t a lifetime ban if we abuse the privilege we have. We’re all perfectly capable of going and getting a normal job if we abuse this privilege we have. If it’s clear that someone has cheated then they don’t deserve to be let back in the sport.” That’s as clear and honourable a statement from a pro bike rider as you’ll hear. And it would be great to hear something similar from lots of other riders.

Alex Dowsett Pinarello TT

But enough. There are races to be raced. And maybe won? Dowsett has obviously already got a race programme sorted with the team, though his first pain-free training ride of the winter was on January 1 after “hours and hours” of physio through November and December. In any case,  Dowsett was in decent shape, all things considered, already impressing his new young coach Xabier Artetxe with his fitness level compared to the mountain goats on the team.

“The team basically asked me what I wanted to do. I sort of said, ‘Well, a Grand Tour?  And they said which one? I said, to be honest, I’m not fussed, just one of them, maybe not two though (laughs). Then I said Classics and I think I can be an alright Classics rider. Then I said I’d like to do some races that I think I can actually win like Poitou-Charentes, Circuit de la Sarthe and Eneco Tour. That was it really, those were the three main things. Ride a Grand Tour, ride the Classics and go for those three races.”

But there will be no Tour of Britain for Dowsett or Movistar in 2013. “The team isn’t doing it and I ran it by the team, but we’ve got the Canadian races and the Vuelta on at the same time and obviously the Vuelta is massive for this team so the Tour of Britain isn’t going to happen this year. But the Tour de France in July next year? Racing through England? That would be a dream come true – massive.”

It all sounds good Alex. “Yeah, I’m happy….really happy.”

Words: Kenny Pryde @KenBobPryde

Pic: Graeme Brown (www.geebeeimages)