Get on your bike

Pro cy­clist Alex Dowsett re­veals his top train­ing tips that will bring you bike skills up to speed

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

“I was lined up to do the Giro d’Italia this year but the skin opened up over the metal plate in my col­lar bone. I could tap the shiny metal pok­ing through and feel it vi­brat­ing up the bone my un­der my skin,” says Alex Dowsett, in the kind of tone that the rest of us would use to de­scribe a par­tic­u­larly stress­ful trip to the su­per­mar­ket. When it comes to bounc­ing back from ad­ver­sity, the 28-year-old Tour de France and Adi­das Sport Eye­wear ath­lete has had a lot of prac­tice. Ever since he was di­ag­nosed as a haemophil­iac he has been prov­ing the naysay­ers wrong and rewrit­ing the rule­book on time tri­alling, the event cy­cling en­thu­si­asts call the purest form of rac­ing – just you, your bike and the clock. Af­ter win­ning a time trial gold medal at the 2014 Com­mon­wealth games, he beat Bradley Wig­gins to break­ing the hour record in 2015, clock­ing up 52.937km in the Lon­don Olympic Velo­drome. The hand­ful of rid­ers who have bro­ken that record usu­ally had to suf­fer like dogs to achieve it. But ac­cord­ing to Dowsett, “it felt sur­pris­ingly easy”. He puts that down to be­ing su­per-dis­ci­plined and pac­ing his ef­fort fault­lessly. But how does he keep his cool to out-think the com­pe­ti­tion while rid­ing on the limit? And what ad­vice does he have on train­ing for and ex­e­cut­ing the per­fect ath­letic ef­fort?

What got you into cy­cling in the first place?

I just wanted to be very good at some­thing. As a haemophil­iac I was told to do swim­ming be­cause there was no risk of a bone break, which can put you in hos­pi­tal for a month, but I wasn’t very fast. I did a bit of moun­tain bik­ing with my dad and I dis­cov­ered road cy­cling when I bor­rowed a road bike from one of his mates.

So did be­ing a haemophil­iac hold you back?

Not really. I was al­ready fit from the swim­ming and af­ter my first time trial on the road bike I was told I should stick with it. So it’s prob­a­bly more true to say my haemophilia is the rea­son I’m a pro cy­clist. I read an in­ter­view with [per­fume en­trepreneur and can­cer sur­vivor] Jo Malone and she said, “What life takes with one had it gives back twice with the other” and I feel like that was the case with me.

How do you stay fo­cused when it’s just you on the road, rac­ing the clock?

I’m good at main­tain­ing con­cen­tra­tion, judg­ing my ef­fort, and pac­ing it well. On my Garmin I have as much in­for­ma­tion as I can pos­si­bly get - it takes my mind off the pain.

There’s a lot of data in cy­cling - can you get too ob­sessed with the num­bers?

You come in af­ter a race and ev­ery­one asks, “What power did you av­er­age?” To win a time trial you need the fastest time and the fastest av­er­age speed - but peo­ple fo­cus on a big power num­ber. I’m happy to let them get on with it be­cause I’m fo­cus­ing on going fast.

Has your rid­ing evolved over the years?

I use my head more than my legs now. In a race in Ger­many I out­weighed a team-mate by 10kg and av­er­aged 395 watts to his 400 watts but I put 2½ min­utes into him just by do­ing things like sit­ting on my top tube and free­wheel­ing on de­scents.

How dis­ap­pointed were you to have missed out on the Giro last year?

I was in tears watch­ing the Pro­logue - it was a short, flat time trial, Fabian Can­cel­lara was sick, two of the other favourites crashed and Tom Du­moulin was beat­able that day. It will be the big­gest missed op­por­tu­nity of my ca­reer.

What am­bi­tions do you still have?

I want my hour record back [Wig­gins broke it a month af­ter Dowsett]. I know from the num­bers that it’s pos­si­ble for me to go fur­ther than Wig­gins - it wouldn’t be easy but I would love to have an­other go.

The hour record has a rep­u­ta­tion as a painfest - what was your strat­egy?

The guys who say it’s hor­rific are the ones who have gone far too hard. I had a sched­ule and I stuck to it, and I waited for it to get bru­tally hard like ev­ery­one said it would, but it just didn’t.

What’s the most im­por­tant les­son you’ve learned about train­ing?

To mix it up. If you con­stantly do the same train­ing then you get very good at that but it’s not as ef­fec­tive as it was be­fore. Do­ing some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent shocks your body and your legs and you get more benefit from it. Alex Dowsett rides in Adi­das Sport Eye­wear Zonyk Pro (adi­das.com/ eye­wear) and was speak­ing at the Rouleur Clas­sic (rouleur­clas­sic.cc)

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