Alex Dowsett is muscling his way around the peloton with purpose these days helping lead out Marcel Kittel, who won his first race with new team Katusha-Alpecin on Thursday on the second stage of Tirreno-Adriatico.
The Englishman, 29, switched teams this winter after five years working for GC riders at Spanish team Movistar. Now, he is pulling for the 6’3″ broad-shouldered Marcel Kittel.
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“I think I made more enemies in three races than I have in the last five years because I didn’t really have to contest finishes like that with so much pressure over the last five years. It’s actually quite new for me,” Dowsett told Cycling Weekly while Kittel prepared his bike for stage three of Tirreno-Adriatico.
The WorldTour team hired Kittel from Quick-Step Floors over the winter and replaced out-going sprinter Alexander Kristoff, who went to UAE Team Emirates. Dowsett was part of a wave of new riders which also included Ian Boswell and Nathan Haas.
Instead of piloting small climbers like Nairo Quintana around mid-stage, he is now in the sharp end of the sprint days for Kittel. The German is one of the best in the business, having won 14 stages in the Tour de France and worn the yellow jersey twice after winning on the opening in 2017.
A multiple national time trial champion and former Hour Record holder, Dowsett is now working alongside another strong time triallist in Tony Martin in the Katusha lead-out train. On Thursday the duo worked through the chaos, from where Kittel emerged on the wheels of Nathan Haas and Rick Zabel.
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“Oh my god, so many [potholes and speed bumps]. That finishing circuit was crazy. I don’t know if it was a shock because we’ve been used to having 27 lanes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It felt like the first race of the year again with all the fighting,” Dowsett said.
“I guess it [doing a lead out] is a bit like a time trial – you hate it whilst you’re doing it, but when it all comes off for the win, you do kind of enjoy it because it was all for a massive outcome. It was mental. When you hear on the radio a big ol’ scream that you won, it makes everything worthwhile.”
Prior to Thursday, Kittel was one of the few sprinters who had yet to win in 2018. He said that it took some time to get the train working perfectly, that “it doesn’t happen in eight weeks over the winter.”
Dowsett began the season with Kittel last month in the Dubai Tour and Abu Dhabi Tour, and hopes that the team can take confidence from Kittel’s Tirreno victory and push on for more success.
“Hopefully this has taken a bit of weight off our shoulders, because we tried many times and hadn’t pulled it off,” Dowsett added. “We are confident we can do it, I’m sure Marcel is happy he now has his first win of the year. We will fight just as hard as before for the same thing and hopefully there be more wins.
“I do enjoy it, I fell like it’s something I’m good at as well. It’s always nice to be good at something rather than coming into a race and riding around. That’s not much fun, so it’s good having a job.”