Hey, so I’ve finally finished my season, Tour of Beijing and Chronos des Nations rounded it off and leaves me with 3-4 weeks where I don’t even have to look at a bike! That said its likely I’ll end up doing a couple of club runs, hour easy rides with my dad and mountain biking in my break for no other reason than the fact I enjoy it.
Tour of Beijing
The Tour of Beijing was an experience to say the least! As professional cyclists people often think we have our routines, intricate needs and can be very fussy borderline divas. Well in truth we are when we can be but sometimes you simply have to make the best of and adapt to certain situations. Beijing was a classic example. As the race wasn’t in Europe we didn’t have the luxuries of the team bus or cars, nor the familiar European environment. We may as well have been on another planet! Normally simple things for the staff became large problems and would’ve been nigh on impossible had we not had Travis our Mandarin speaking Brit on hand to help us out. The race was new on the professional calendar and keen to impress the World. We stayed in swanky hotels and flew business class to and from the race which was a luxury! The sight of 8 sky riders wandering round the cabin dressed in XL Air China Pyjamas was quite something!! Long haul travel always seems to play havoc with my eating habits. I end up never sure whether I should be eating breakfast, lunch or dinner so before I knew it I was sitting in my room bent over double an hour before dinner absolutely starving. Thus I ordered a club sandwich an hour before dinner. After near on inhaling it I inevitably barely ate anything after, teaches me to not listen to Mum about eating before a meal!
Jet lag the first night wasn’t too bad, think I was so tired from the travel that I just slept straight through and I awoke on my birthday ready and raring to go. My room mate Vuelta sensation Chris Froome however had been for a swim, a sauna, a workout in the gym, wandered around the hotel for a bit and was first to breakfast by the time I was up! For training we had the option of being taken by bus out of the city to roads suitable for training but this was very early so we decided to do our own thing and have a lie in. 1 hour into the ride and we were still very much in the city and weaving in and out of traffic, a 3 hour planed ride became 1hr45 due to our frustration of such a start stop ride as it turns out Beijing is bigger than Belgium! The bus ride hadn’t been much more successful by the sounds of things, they had spent hours sat in traffic also… Beijing was turning into a small-scale nightmare for training and we were all now itching to race! That evening the boys headed out to the silk markets to see the sights, I decided however to stay in as I knew the prologue was another opportunity for me to prove my worth and I wanted to get an early night…. Jet lag prevented me from sleeping until 3am!! Needless to say this was a Birthday to forget!
Tour of Beijing TT
After a more successful pre race day training ride around a park I was ready to race the 11km time trial on road bikes that started and finished at the Birds Nest Olympic Stadium. I was off v early, teams do this when they have more than one rider capable of doing well in a prologue, for us it was Chris Froome, Steve Cummings and myself, this way with us being spread out if the weather changes at least one of us should get the better end of it. The TT was on road bikes this time, again another scenario where we had to adapt. I was forever telling myself “it’s the same for everyone.” I pulled absolutely everything out of myself, possibly even overcooked it early on slightly but I was satisfied I couldn’t have gone any harder and the numbers were good. A 30 mph average speed and 460 watt average power, which was a personal best. I was also the quickest time so far by a good margin so now, once again, the agonising wait for the other 130 riders to finish!
Tour of Beijing White jersey
Just as the team predicted both Steve Cummings and Chris Froome were up there, in fact we took 3rd, 4th and 5th! I had placed 3rd with World Champion Tony Martin decimating the field and Millar piping me by 7 seconds. I had also rode into the white young riders classification leaders jersey, I was happy.
Day 2 was fairly uneventful, a very messy bunch sprint, no team could fully take control into a headwind finish so it was thrill a minute with riders clashing and breaking spokes, wheels, bikes etc but no crashes luckily. It goes to show just how well the pro peloton can handle their bikes, none of us want to crash or want anyone else to crash so whilst its close there’s a certain amount of respect that flows through the peloton that keeps accidents to a minimum.
Day 3 was the next opportunity to gain (or lose) time, 4 substantial climbs, 2 at the start and 2 at the end of the race. As per usual a breakaway was allowed to leave the peloton (a breakaway rarely forces itself away from the peloton, it’s the peloton that allows the breakaway to leave and controls the gap accordingly, 9 times out of 10 the move is suicidal in terms of winning the stage but is good for riders to gain points in intermediate sprints and the mountains classifications as well as coverage for sponsors if the race is televised). HTC controlled the pace over the first 2 climbs, I was feeling ok but nothing special. I was well positioned for the final climbs but realised after I was perhaps too far forwards, I was getting caught up in the accelerations of riders attacking and this was killing me, I started to slip backwards. This was the most demoralising feeling, knowing I was punching out watts good enough to be competitive for time trials yet not good enough to stay with the majority of riders up a 6km climb. I dangled off the back for a km fighting as hard as I could and then the elastic snapped and that was it, a 20m gap became 8mins at the finish despite Dario Cioni and Christian Knees turning themselves inside out to try and pace me back on my hopes of a holding my Young riders jersey and 3rd place vanished up and over the brow of a climb.
The race finished without a glitch, Davide Appolonio had been up there in the final bunch sprints with our help but hadn’t quite managed to finish it off. All was not lost though, Chris Froome and Steve Cummings moved into 3rd and 4th place respectively and we secured the team classification which meant soaking one of our Director’s Servais Knaven on the podium, and a night out on the town in Beijing followed.
Not a bad week!
My week at home in between Beijing and France was eventful to say the least, I filmed for the programme Embarrassing Bodies and I’m refusing to let anyone know why until it’s aired in Feb/March time so watch this space. I also took shipment of a new car! When I say new as well, it arrived with just the 150 miles on the clock that it took to drive it from the factory in Coventry to my house! It’s a black Jaguar XKR with black rims and black extras but a red leather interior, the engine is a 5.0l supercharged v8 and “How” I hear you ask “can a 23year old Essex Boy racer afford and insure that monster of a machine!?” Well Team Sky is sponsored by Jaguar so as riders we get a lease deal which was too good to pass up, Jaguar insure, tax, service and MOT the car. I have it for 9 months then can renew it or cancel or change it. Needless to say driving it around Essex has been a pleasure, watching the fuel gauge vanish however was less exciting! But I am over the moon with it, it is quite a car!
I’m very into my cars and this comes from my Dad, Phil, He used to be a touring car Driver back in the 1980s, he was good as well finishing second in the British championship in 1988 (he missed part of mum’s labour with me to go race the last round in the championship) So naturally I’ve always been into motor racing and cars. I had an Essex special 206 to start with, fully kitted out with the body kit, exhaust, black alloys, lowered 40mm, sound system and a carbon look roof. This was replaced by a white Ford Focus ST (also very Essex) and then a blue Ford Focus RS (seeing an Essex trend here?). The RS has been my pride and joy and sits in the garage whilst I get (as dad calls is) my super car phase out of my system. It is waiting to go to Mountune Performance (Company that modifies Fords) to have a few bits and pieces done.
Phil Dowestt Toyota Team Toms
Chronos des Nations Start
Chronos des Nations
Chronos des Nations was my last race of the season. I won the U23 event last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The course is fantastic, fast roads, seemingly more downhill than up (I know that makes no sense at all) and a little bit technical. This year I was racing the Men’s so competition was fierce, Tony Martin and David Millar again as well as Westra, Vinokourov and Gustav Erik Larsson. Sky sent a small setup for me, everything I needed but nothing more which suited me fine. It’s often nice to be fending for yourself a little bit every so often. Simon Cope was there to help me as well, we go back to the talent team days so there was a lot of reminiscing during the long waiting hours we have to endure as cyclists. Saturday included a recce of the course, 48.5 km meant 30 miles so the target for me was simple, to go under the hour! A pre race ride for a tt for me will be around an hour to 2 hours depending on how I’m feeling. I’ll ride the course if I can and often tackle the technical sections a couple of times, I’ll also do a 15 minute effort to open up, this will be 10mins of zone 3, this for me is around 150 bpm for my heart rate and between 300-350watts of power, I’ll then lift this to race pace in the final 5 minutes and maybe sprint it out at the end. Otherwise I’ll drive around the course as well for a bit more familiarisation and the rest of the day will be obeying the laws of resting; ‘never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down.’
The actual race was kind of average in terms of how I felt, just wasn’t firing all cylinders so had to use my experience to make sure I made use of what I had, this meant resting and getting as aero as possible when the pace was high, really suffering in the headwind and uphill sections and generally looking after myself in terms of gear selection. The finish line finally approached. Often time trials seem like eternity when you’re racing them yet when you’ve finished they feel short which I guess they are compared to the road race distances. I wound up 3rd, which I wasn’t displeased with given how I felt during the race and what I was hoping for as a result, Tony Martin had decimated the field putting 2mins 50 seconds into me. Gustav Erik Larsson, the Swedish National TT champ was second and David Millar was 4th. I left France satisfied with my performance and my season as a whole and was desperately looking forward to some downtime!
Chronos des Nations
Chronos des Nations Podium
Before home though, I had a very brief stop in Milan, more about that in my next installment.
All the Best.