Cycling Weekly is counting down the top 30 British Riders of the Year thoughout December.
NUMBER 7: ALEX DOWSETT
Giro d’Italia stage winner and national time trial champion
When Alex Dowsett left Team Sky after two seasons, some fans wondered what the British-backed squad’s priorities were, if not to develop British talent. However, the UK’s strength in depth as more young road riders develop means that Sky cannot possibly accommodate every British rider who deserves a place on a WorldTour team.
Dowsett undoubtedly deserved a place among the elite, and so it came as no surprise that top team Movistar showed interest when it became clear he was available.
And Dowsett proved that he is a world-class performer at the Giro d’Italia, where he won stage eight – a time trial from Gabicce Mare to Saltara.
The great irony, of course, is that, had Dowsett remained at Sky, he probably wouldn’t have been selected for the Giro because the team was built around supporting Bradley Wiggins and his bid to win the race.
At Movistar, Dowsett was given the chance to make his Grand Tour debut at the age of 24 and, as the first week drew to a close, he had the chance to make a name for himself.
The time trial was a long one – 54.8km – and Wiggins was everybody’s favourite to win it. Dowsett, as one of the earlier starters, set a benchmark that looked high but not unbeatable. As the afternoon wore on, though, it became clear just what a top quality ride Dowsett had produced. The time gaps to some notable time trial riders were significant. Cadel Evans, for example, was 39 seconds slower.
All eyes were on Wiggins, and when he crossed the line 10 seconds slower than the Movistar rider, for a brief moment Dowsett must have rubbed his eyes and looked again at the time on the screen. In the race of truth, the clock never lies, and Dowsett had pulled off cycling’s equivalent of a cup upset.
While distance is not everything, it is worth noting that no British rider has ever won a Grand Tour time trial of such length. Over almost 55km, there can be no such thing as a lucky win. This was a classy triumph of perfect pacing.
The rest of Dowsett’s season was spent filling a support role for Movistar – an experience that will surely stand him in good stead in years to come.
He is a fine time triallist and a very useful man to have in a team time trial. But there is more to his armoury than that, and it will be interesting to see what sort of job Movistar have in mind for him next season.
The other highlight of his season was a third consecutive national time trial title, won at Stewarton in Scotland, where he defeated Matt Bottrill and Ben Swift by 21 seconds. Winning three in a row puts Dowsett just one short of Stuart Dangerfield’s record of four titles.
Regardless of his achievements within the UK, we must admit that Dowsett’s high placing in our list of riders of the year owes everything to a blistering ride in the Marche region of Italy, on a day when everyone expected a British victory.
British Riders of the Year 2013: Related links