With the opening time trial now behind him, Movistar’s Alex Dowsett must settle down to his main task in this Tour de France – protecting team leader Nairo Quintana.
Dowsett has raced for many leaders at Team Sky and Movistar, but Quintana stands out from them all. He said that the politeness and gratefulness that his Movistar captain shows, in races like the Tour de France helps him push that much further.
Dowsett must look after the five-foot-six Colombian climber for three weeks in the Tour, especially in the wind and flats like Sunday’s second stage to Zélande on the western shores of the Netherlands.
Quintana found himself distanced from rivals Chris Froome and Alberto Contador in the later part of stage two, but Dowsett was on hand to try and lead him back into contention.
“What’s nice is that he thanks you for all the work,” Dowsett told Cycling Weekly.
“I’ve worked for a fair few team leaders now, the ones that don’t appreciate it. You do your job, but you don’t do a pedal stroke more, you give them 90%, you do as much or what’s needed.
“There are guys who appreciate it and guys you want to see win, like Nairo. You give everything, you put yourself on the line everyday for him because he does appreciate it. It’s a simple, ‘Thank you,’ but there’s many team leaders who seem not to realise that goes a long way. Nairo’s not one of them.”
Dowsett made his debut in the Tour de France on Saturday after a season that included the Hour Record and a struggle to be selected for the race. Following the hour record, he had to lose weight, mostly muscle, to be fit and to make the Movistar team around leader Quintana.
He suffered in the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race, but had another chance in the Route du Sud. He proved himself while helping Quintana place second overall behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
“There was less pressure than there was last year, when it was an English start and being an English rider. It was my sole season focus to make the Tour team last year,” Dowsett added.
“I’d say I was more ready for it than I am this year, but a bit of calmness and the expectation not to be in team has kind of helped.”
Dowsett wants to make it Paris and finish his first Tour, but his focus is first on helping Quintana through the first nine days of the race. Afterwards, in the high mountains, he will help Quintana to the base of the climbs.
Following stage two, the race will go through Belgium before finishing on the small and sharp Mur de Huy climb on Monday and cover the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix on Tuesday. Dowsett must be present to guide Quintana through in order to justify his selection in the nine-man team.
“Keeping him on my wheel, up and out of trouble, up near the front,” he added. “That will mean me riding in the wind on the side of the bunch so that he’s not in the bunch, in the panic and washing machine, and I’m the one taking the wind. Predominately in these first 10 days.”
Dowsett brushed aside any personal ambitions in the race. The opening 13.8-kilometre time trial in the sun-soaked city of Utrecht looked to be of a distance that favoured him, but he said afterwards was not his type of stage.
“I always struggle on the course where’s there’s no rest, when it’s not very technical. I chased that average speed of Rohan Dennis, and blew hard.
“If I had gone off earlier, maybe I would’ve raced my own race rather than chasing Rohan’s time. That probably would’ve put me in the top 10, but I’m not one to be content with a top 10. Even with a second, I still would’ve been disappointed.”
For Dowsett in this Tour de France, it is now all for an “appreciative” Quintana.
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