Alex Dowsett will make his Grand Tour debut with Movistar at the Giro d’Italia this weekend as he continues to adjust to a team culture different to that of his former Sky squad.
Dowsett is the only native-English speaking rider on the roster and a more relaxed approach to racing, plus eating dinner at 10 o’clock, has taken some adjustment in his first season with the Spanish team.
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“It would be unfair of me to say it’s in front or behind because the two teams, there are some things they do very differently,” Dowsett told Cycling Weekly yesterday.
“Whereas I might of thought the way Sky do things is the best, now I’ve seen different ways of approaching races and it’s kind of made me think actually there’s something in that.
“This team has got more experience than any other in the pro peloton. They’ve been around for years and there’s a lot for me to take from that in terms of learning. But then also the team’s not afraid of the new school ideas at all. In fact, they’re sort of embracing it. We’ve got a big sports science department now and I think some of the boys have been spending time in the wind tunnel.
“Now that the sport has cleaned up a whole lot, the gains that used to be found elsewhere are now having to be found in the little things like nutrition, aerodynamics, equipment and so forth. That’s being looked at fairly heavily within the team.”
The 24-year-old transferred from the British-based Sky at the end of last year to pursue starts in bigger races, which he has been afforded. Dowsett had a full Classics season that included E3, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix. He left for a two-week Majorca training camp days after the latter.
“I’ve ridden some pretty bloody big races so far this year and it’s about to get bigger. It’s a big learning year for me. To finish a Grand Tour, it changes you as a bike rider,” he said.
“The whole season so far has been geared around the Giro. I was excited about the Classics but I didn’t prepare for them and realised an hour into Dwars door Vlaanderen that was a pretty big mistake on my part,” he continued.
“When I got dropped in Paris-Roubaix there was a group behind me that rode to the finish, and a group I was with rode to the finish, but I knew there were a hell of a lot more sections of cobbles and another sort of 70-80K.
“I could finish, but I might need a week to recover, or I could cut my losses and be in Majorca training pretty bloody hard on Wednesday. As good as it would be to finish Paris-Roubaix, my priority was the Giro so I cut my losses, hopped in the bus and made a point of not going into the velodrome. I figured next year.”
Stage two of the Giro on Sunday is a 17.4km team time trial and Dowsett is set to play an integral role in that. Movistar have been handy in the discipline this season. Dowsett was part of the squad that finished second, only to world champions Omega Pharma-Quick Step, in the 16.9km opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in March. He uses the team time trial to illustrate differences between his past and present team.
“The team time trial in Sky was all very regimented, you knew the order and you stuck to your order. It was all very well planned,” he said. “In Tirreno it was quite loose, much looser than I’ve been used to. At the time it was completely out of my comfort zone and I was thinking this is an absolute disaster.
“We got into the race and the order of everyone riding changed at the halfway mark when people started suffering a bit more. Everyone seemed to know what to do straight away. The guys that were suffering they either did short turns or just sat on the back and let the fast guys do the work at the end and keep the speed high. We did well, and that works.
“We’re missing [Jonathan] Castroviejo and [Andrei] Amador in the Giro line-up and they were key workhorses in the Tirreno team trial, but I don’t see why that should affect it all that much.”
The two-time British national champion is also looking to post a strong result in the first individual time trial on May 11, which is notably over 54.8km. Olympic gold medalist Bradley Wiggins (Sky) could make his first significant impression on the pink jersey there.
“Eight days in I guess everyone is going to start to feel different in terms of fatigue, but I’d love to do a ride there. There are not many riders in that peloton that could do a stint on the time trial bike for 55K,” Dowsett said.
“I did an 80K time trial when I was 15! I’m going to be calling upon that experience nine years ago to carry me through.”
Movistar’s Giro team also features Italians Eros Capecchi and Giovanni Visconti, Spaniards Juan José Cobo, José Herrada, Beñat Intxausti, Pablo Lastras, Fran Ventoso as well as Russian Vladimir Karpets.
“On the road stages I’ll be looking after Intxausti and Cobo as much as possible. On the flat stages it will be Ventoso for the sprint. If the team wants breakaways I’ll give that a go as well,” Dowsett said.
“If you give Fran kind of a lumpy finish, not your pure sprinter’s sprint, but more slightly uphill maybe he could be competitive there,” he added of his teammate who speaks fluent English.
“I think we’ve got a really strong core. The thing I’ve noticed about Movistar is there’s no one on the team that we’re carrying. Everyone is really strong so in terms of the team time trial it’s all fairly evenly matched, which is good. There is no absolute stand out rider who is going to either tear the team apart or pull us all along.”