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Childhood ambition fires Dowsett’s hour record bid

Alex Dowsett has a rare blood disorder, hemophilia, and he hopes his hour record ride will inspire others suffering from rare diseases

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) — British cyclist Alex Dowsett will fulfill a childhood goal when he attempts to break the world hour record in Manchester on Saturday, while aiming to provide inspiration to hemophilia sufferers around the world.

The 26-year-old Englishman will aim to beat the mark of 52.491 kilometers set by Australia’s Rohan Dennis in February.

A former Giro d’Italia stage winner, Dowsett rides for the Spanish-based Movistar team, and his rise to the top of professional cycling is all the more remarkable given that he has the rare blood disorder, hemophilia, which impairs the body’s ability to clot blood when cut.

“What we’re trying to do for both the hemophilia community and the rare disease community, and anyone who has had adversity to overcome, is be a source of motivation and inspiration,” said Dowsett.

“We try to show that you can’t let hemophilia dictate your life, even if it shapes your life. When I was a kid I was told I couldn’t play contact sports so I did a lot of swimming which meant that when I tried cycling, I was pretty quick straight away.

“Without hemophilia, I probably wouldn’t be sat here talking about the world hour record, I would be banging my head against a wall trying to make it in football or rugby.

“So come Saturday, whatever the result, I won’t have lost. I will hopefully have shown a generation of rare disease sufferers that they shouldn’t settle, that they should go out there and give it a go.”

Dowsett first dreamt of setting the hour record, dominated by the British duo of Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman in the 1990s, when he started competitive cycling over a decade ago.

Laughed at

“In my naivety, when I started track racing at the age of 15, I pitched up to a track league and asked if anyone ever tried the hour record in the track league session, and I got laughed at,” said Dowsett.

“So to be in a position where I’m going for the record myself is amazing,” he added.

The hour record has gained new credibility in the past year since the UCI changed the strict rules dictating the technology and position a rider is allowed to use.

The record, first formally posted in 1893, has been set three times since September 2014 but, even if Dowsett manages to break it this weekend, his mark may not last for long.

Fellow Briton Bradley Wiggins, the former Tour de France winner and multiple Olympic gold medalist, is scheduled to attempt the record himself in London on June 7.

“What Brad is doing has had no influence whatsoever on how I’m approaching my attempt,” said Dowsett.

“I’ve seen how he is doing 20-minute blocks at 55kph! I’m not going to ride 55 kilometers, so if that’s what Brad is able to do, I’ll be one of the first ones sat watching him because it’s going to be quite something.”