An interview with Alex Dowsett
PUBLISHED: 11:44 16 January 2017 | UPDATED: 11:44 16 January 2017
International road racing cyclist Alex Dowsett has certainly made his county proud with his astonishing achievements over the last few years. Here he talks to Holly Eells about training hard on the quiet country Essex roads, fighting haemophilia and breaking more world records
It’s just over a year since British professional road racing cyclist, Alex Dowsett smashed the track cycling world hour record by 446m, with a distance of 52.937km. But times, and distances move on fast in the cycling world.
The Movistar cycling hero is now aiming for an even further distance to retake the top spot and the title of world record holder. He explains: ‘This year I was beaten by Sir Bradley Wiggins, but my team and I are aiming to claim back that world record before May 2017. This is my main focus at the moment because I believe I am capable of achieving an even better time and it is about putting yourself on the line, but being prepared to fail.’
It is evident that the Commonwealth Games gold medalist and four times National Time Trial champion is a determined character. He gives the impression that it is not all about wining medals, but proving people wrong, which has been a motivation since he was diagnosed at just 18 months old with haemophilia (one of a group of inherited bleeding disorders that cause abnormal or exaggerated bleeding and poor blood clotting).
Alex says: ‘When I was a kid, I definitely didn’t dream of being a cyclist, I just had this desire to be very good at something and didn’t care what it was. However, due to a series of circumstances, particularly the haemophilia, I ended up on a bike.
‘Somewhere along the line this led to competing at the National Under 17’s Championships aged just 14, where I ended up finishing second. There was no one my age apart from me. This certainly became a defining moment for me, because it made me realise this is what I was meant to be doing.’
Nevertheless, Alex is humble enough not to take all the credit for his astounding cycling skills and points to his dad, Peter Dowsett (a former British Touring Car Championship driver), as the man who brought the passion for racing into the Dowsett family household.
Alex says: ‘My dad is my biggest inspiration because he used to share his car racing stories from back in the day and it made me feel that I wanted to be able to share the same stories with my children. He started mounting biking in Danbury every Thursday night when I was young and at 11 years old I started to join him. When I was 13, one of the guys from the team had a racing bike, which he let me use down at Bradwell on Sea. This is where I did my first time trial and my racing days kicked off from there.’
Born in Chelmsford, the cycling star believes Essex will always be his forever home. ‘I grew up in a tiny village sandwiched between Maldon and Danbury – I just loved it. I now live in Great Baddow and I can’t imagine any other place to live other than Essex. A lot of successful cyclists go to the south of Spain or south of France, which I do to, but the majority of the time I like to focus on the Essex roads,’ says Alex.
‘I train on average six days a week, which is anything from one to six hours per day. I regularly head out to Thaxted because the roads are fairly quiet and the drivers are cautious, which helps! I quite regularly stop of at a cafe, The Blue Egg in Great Bardfield is a favourite stop for food. However, if I want more hills I head to North Hill, (the biggest hill in Essex) or Epping as it is quite lumpy. You can really find some amazing quiet lanes, if you know where to look. There is a huge network of tiny country lanes which people hardly use.’
Alex is a driven cyclist who aims to achieve nothing but the best. Despite suffering with haemophilia, he has gone on to achieve numerous triumphs and doesn’t let his condition get in the way. He explains:
‘When I was diagnosed with haemophilia it was my parents who were affected, not me. I don’t know any different, so I don’t expect pity from anyone. Taking my medication is like eating my porridge every morning.
‘I have gone on to achieve great successes with cycling and I will continue to offer support and guidance to children with haemophilia and their families. I know my story is important within this community. The message is about sending out positive words because in life you can be dealt a very rough hand, however it is what you do afterwards which counts. You can either let it hold you back or lead a better life and accept it.’
Little Bleeders is the first and only young haemophiliacs organisation. Founded by Alex, it was launched in November with the aim of helping to tackle inactivity in boys and young men living with haemophilia across the UK. Approximately 3,000 young people are thought to suffer from haemophilia in the UK.
Alex explains: ‘It has had a positive affect on me and it is the reason I am cycling today. At school I was not allowed to participate in contact sports such as football, cricket or rugby. So it was about finding something that worked for me. Primary school was tough because I either came in on crutches or my arm was in a sling from haemophilia. It means a great deal to me that young people with haemophilia are now getting the medical support they need and through our inspirational ambassadors, The Little Bleeders, I hope that more boys and young men living with haemophilia can enjoy the benefits of sport.’
Alex has also founded Cyclism, a tailor made performance cycling business that focuses on helping amateur to professional level cyclists. He explains: ‘People love to cycle these days and I think part of it is because people find it a good way to exercise. Going on the road with a bunch of mates, it doesn’t feel like as much of a workout as knocking your head against a treadmill.
‘I do think it has become the mid-life crisis solution, predominately for men who are now thinking of buying a £10,000 bike instead of bright yellow Porsches. The funny thing is, whether you spend £1,500 or £12,000, the difference is marginal. If someone is slow on their £500 bike they will be slow on the £12,000 bike. This is where my coaching company, Cyclism, comes in. We try and help give people the level of support I received and took for granted. I want to educate cyclists and stress it is worth investing in a coach compared to buying a set of £1,500 wheels!’
Find out more
For more information on Little Bleeders, visit www.littlebleeders.com