TW Interviews: Team Sky Cyclist Alex Dowsett

An Olympic gold, a time trial win in the Tour de France and World Championship glory - Team Sky rider Alex Dowsett doesn't ask for much. We caught up with the up-and-coming time trial specialist



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He may be one of the newest recruits to Team Sky, but Alex Dowsett is already a key player in the professional cycling team.

Team Sky is a British road biking team who started competing in January 2010. Their stated aim is to 'create the first British winner of the Tour de France, within five years'. They are managed by British Cycling performance director David Brailsford.

Just a few weeks ago Alex finished sixth in the prologue of the Ster Elektrotoer in the Netherlands. Now the European Under-23 Time Trial Champion can't wait to take his place in Sky's 16-strong squad in the Tour of Britain later this year.

We caught up with the talented young cyclist last month to discover his training secrets. He also reveals why he won't be happy until he's added an Olympic medal to his Commonwealth Games Time Trial silver - and based on our chat he's certainly one to watch for London 2012.

Tell us about your typical racing week?

I've just come off the Tour de Luxembourg [Jun 1-5]. That started with a short 1.5-mile time trial. I had a cobbled climb, a tricky descent and some flat sections in it as well, so it was pretty hectic. Then I had four stages all between 100-120 miles in length. There were a few hills, all sorts of weather conditions and it was either hill top finishes or bunched sprints [when cyclists are still grouped in a close pack], so it was a bit of everything to be honest.

You've become quite the time trial specialist. What drills would you recommend for triathletes who want to build their speed on the bike?

I take what a call an 'over and under' approach. I know I average 400 watts for a 50-minute time trial. I'll do sessions at home where I'll try to average 420-430 watts for 10-20 minutes, then I'll have a rest and do it again. That's how I start trying to push my threshold upwards and it's pretty effective. Then there's the endurance stuff where you might do 1.5 hours at 350 watts. You're never trying to replicate the race pace or time, I don't think you make many gains by doing that. You're just trying to push the limits of your threshold.

What are your strategies for dealing with pain?

Training can be a struggle. In a race it's fine because you've got the finish line to aim for, and the harder and faster you go, the quicker you'll get there. In training I usually break it down into 20-minute blocks. No matter how hard you go, 20 minutes is 20 minutes. You have to have a bit of a sadistic mind to put yourself through all that I suppose. There are some days when morale just isn't there or the legs aren't feeling good. Then you either just take a rest day and hit it harder the next day, or try and soldier on.

What's your nutrition strategy for races?  

Weight is important, so I'm always trying to eat enough, but not too much. I can't put on weight because then I'll start struggling in the climbs. I eat lots of protein, plenty of carbohydrates and I try to make healthy choices.

What snacks do you have?

We use CNP protein bars and flapjacks. We know if we're taking them, then we're still adding to our protein levels. We know it's doing us some good as well as filling a hole.

Is it hard to be strict about how much you eat?

I try not to snack too much because then you forget how much you're eating. I try to stick to three meals a day and if I do snack it's just CNP bars or fruit. I'll admit that it can be tough.

Where does London 2012 fit into your plans?

It's the big target for me. Everything I'm doing is geared towards that. To win a medal in London would be quite a tall order because of my age and the level of competition out there. I just need to get my head down and hopefully I'll put in a good ride at the World Championships this year and the National Championships as well.

What's your ultimate career aim?

An Olympic gold medal, winning at the men's World Championships and a time trial win in the Tour de France - then I'd be happy.

What are the most common cycling mistakes you see?

I think  people can overthink and lose track of how simple cycling can be. It's a general fitness and strength thing and it's easy to train - you just need to train hard and train smart. I see a lot of people who just think spending the cash is important, but it's not the be all and end all.

Any tips for climbing hills?

Avoid them at all costs! Everyone is going to lose time on hills. It's important, once you get to the top, to get the speed back as quickly as possible. It's easy to see the top of the hill, ride to it and think, "I'm done".  Once you reach the top, that's when you really need to put the hammer down and get back up to top speed as quickly as possible. You can relax and recover once you've reached that high speed.

Which race are you looking forward to most this season?

The Tour of Britain in November. To be part of the Sky Team for that tour is amazing. When I found out I was part of that team it was a real buzz.

The British Cycling team and Team Sky were at the Manchester Velodrome hosting a Gatorade track cycling masterclass. Triathlete's World were given an insight into how elite track cyclists train and offered hydration and sweat testing by a Gatorade Sports Science Institute scientist to highlight the effects of intensive training on the body. Gatorade is the official hydration partner of Team Sky and the British Cycling team.

Find out what happened at the Gatorade track cycling masterclass


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