Alex Dowsett has no intention of relinquishing his long-standing title as British national time trial champion but will face his biggest challenge yet when he vies for a fourth consecutive victory against a field that includes Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins next Thursday.
Wiggins abandoned the Tour of Switzerland yesterday due to a crash-related injury but still features on the 56-strong elite men’s start list that also includes David Millar and Geraint Thomas.
Dowsett has had a stranglehold on the championship since making his senior debut in 2011 and last year even recovered from a crash on the 49.2km course in Stewarton to best Matthew Bottrill and Ben Swift, who will both return in 2014.
“Having Wiggins as my two-minute man is a bit surreal. It’s not going to be a walk in the park that’s for sure,” Dowsett told Cycling Weekly.
“I think the field is a lot more competitive. Last year I had Swift, [Luke] Rowe and Bottrill and I think the fact it was all the way up in Glasgow put a lot of people off. The year before my two, four and six-minute men didn’t turn up so that was one of the easiest races I’ve ever won.
“I don’t think Geraint will miss an opportunity to race in Wales and Wiggins, I think it just falls in line with what he’s got planned this year,” he added of the bolstered field in what is a Commonwealth Games year.
“I’m not in the slightest way confident but I don’t think you have to be in a time trial. I’m confident I’ll go out and do the best ride I can possibly do. What you can’t control is how quick everyone else goes so I’m hoping that whatever I do will be good enough.”
Dowsett caused an upset when he beat stage favourite Wiggins in the 54.8km time trial of the 2013 Giro d’Italia, which doubled as his Grand Tour debut.
The off-contract Movistar professional recently shattered the national 10-mile record setting a new benchmark of 17 minutes and 20 seconds before riding an odd 80km back to his Essex base with a “bigger picture”, being a Tour de France debut, in mind.
Dowsett has been consistent in time trials this season finishing fifth in a 13.6km test at the Volta ao Algarve in February. The 25-year-old was sixth in a 9.1km race against the clock at Tirreno-Adriatico in March and won the 6.8km time trial at the Circuit de la Sarthe in April.
Dowsett is not overly familiar with the 2014 national course in Monmouthshire, Wales, but suggests it too will impact on the outcome of the title race.
“I’ve seen information on it and what not. It’s not a time triallists time trial necessarily – it’s quite technical,” he said. “I think Geraint could be a real threat in something like that. We’ll see. I’m not planning on giving up the jersey any time soon.”
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Movistar pro Alex Dowsett posts time of 17 minutes and 20 seconds in ECCA 10-mile time trial on Saturday