“I want to be as good as I can be for the Tour de France. Anything before is important, but a stepping stone towards it.”
New season training camps are normally done and dusted by early January but Alex Dowsett will start the Tour of Algarve (February 19-23) this week on the back of Movistar’s first.
The British national time trial champion has been training in Spain in the run to the five-stage race after making his season debut at the Dubai Tour, which contemporary Taylor Phinney (BMC) won, earlier this month.
“Because a lot of the fellas live in warm climates anyway it’s kind of not as important to our team as it is perhaps to other teams that have a lot of riders in climates like mine,” Dowsett said of the Spanish team’s belated winter gathering.
The 25 year old had planned drop more top-end into training after the inaugural Dubai Tour in which he was disappointed not to be at the pointy end of the opening 9.9km road bike time trial that Phinney averaged 490 watts over 12 minutes to claim.
“I think that’s a lot of power he put out for that 12 minutes. That was the scary bit for me I guess,” Dowsett said. “But, no, that was an incredible ride by him. I wasn’t surprised by it. He’s shown his caliber time and time again. I just hope he doesn’t get too much better to be honest!
“It’s really difficult to train at the intensities you race, so the first race of the season for a lot of people is about opening things up. Some of the guys I was racing against had been in Down Under and San Luis and they already had a few days racing so, yeah, I’m just making excuses.
“In a time trial, I always want to win it. Whether it’s realistic or not is a completely different kettle of fish.”
Dowsett spent the off-season clocking miles on his home roads in Essex, and working with a team coach, but also placed a greater emphasis on gym work.
“I’m down on power compared to the likes of Tony Martin and Phinney, [Fabian] Cancellara and [Bradley] Wiggins so, the way I saw it, just bike riding wasn’t going to make that big change. I thought I need to try and find something else so threw myself into some gym work, which was nice when the weather was crap as well,” he said.
Dowsett best London Olympic champion Wiggins in the time trial to win his first Giro d’Italia stage in what was his Grand Tour debut with Movistar last season. However, despite that success, he doesn’t plan on returning to the Italian spectacle with Tour de France selection, where he could potentially support Alejandro Valverde, at the top of the agenda.
The Giro win was as much a verification of his career gamble to leave Team Sky and join Movistar in pursuit of more race opportunities that in 2013 also came in the form of the cobble classics.
“I want to be as good as I can be for the Tour de France. Anything before is important, but a stepping stone towards it,” Dowsett said.
“I’m not going to do the big classics this year. I feel after last year’s fairly feeble attempt I want to go back and focus on them fully and hit them as good as I possibly can. This year I want one major target and I don’t want to dilute that. I don’t want to do several things mediocre. I’d rather do one thing very well.”
The 101st Tour de France this year includes one 54km time trial on the penultimate day – a similar distance to that Dowsett conquered in Italy. However, his ambitions in it are, at least in February, modest.
“It’s a long one as well but it’s right at the end of the bloody race. There’s no way you can save yourself for something like that. It’s not like the Giro one where it was eight days in,” he said. “For sure being my first Tour I’m at a slight disadvantage against the likes of Wiggins who have got a load of Grand Tours under their belt, but I’d have said the same of the Giro win so you never know.”
The Tour of Algarve includes a 13.6km time trial (stage three) and Dowsett will again be up against two-time and defending race champion Martin, who will surely be looking to rectify his disappointing run in Dubai.
Martin’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step team will also take Britain’s Mark Cavendish, supported by Mark Renshaw and Alessandro Petacchi.
2014 Tour of Algarve
Wednesday February 19, Stage one: Faro – Albufeira, 160km
Thursday February 20, Stage two: Lagoa – Monchique, 196km
Friday February 21, Stage three: Vila do Bispo – Sagres ITT, 13.6km
Saturday February 22, Stage four: Almodovar – Loule, 164.5km
Sunday February 23, Stage five: Tavira – Vilamoura, 155.8km