Giro d'Italia

Power analysis: Alex Dowsett on stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia

VeloNews analyzes the power numbers put up by Alex Dowsett on Stage 8 of this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation) needed a win. He hadn’t won a race since the British National Time Trial in 2019, and hadn’t won a road race since the 2011 Tour International du Poitou Charentes. The six-time British TT Champion is without a WorldTour contract for 2021, and so he entered this year’s Giro d’Italia with the possibility of his career riding on his shoulders.

Israel Start-Up Nation needed a win too. The 2020 addition to the WorldTour team roster was still without a WorldTour win this season, and had yet to take a stage at the Giro d’Italia despite several attempts at trying. A few top-10s in the opening week of this year’s Giro seemed promising, but then on Stage 8, Dowsett and teammate Matthias Brändle rode into the break of the day on the 200km stage from Giovinazzo to Vieste. What happened over the next few hours was truly memorable, and may have saved Dowsett’s career.

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The opening 90km of Stage 8 was pan-flat, hugging the coastline along the Adriatic Sea while heading north towards the first climb of the day, the category two Monte Sant’Angelo. With a lumpy finale forthcoming, everyone knew that there was a good chance that the breakaway would succeed, and so the fight was as tough as ever. The peloton ripped along the tarmac at over 60kph before the move of the day was finally established after 22 kilometers of racing: Dowsett and Brändle were joined by American rider Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team), Simone Ravanelli (Androni Giocattoli–Sidermec), Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal) and Salvatore Puccio (Ineos Grenadiers).

Dowsett had to put in a massive effort of over 700w for nearly a minute in order to make it into the breakaway. And after that, he put in another dig of nearly 900w to stay in the group and increase their gap to the peloton.

Dowsett – making the Breakaway:
Time: 12:29
Average Power: 360w (4.6w/kg)
Average Speed: 53.6kph (33.3mph)

Dowsett establishing the break in stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

Dowsett and his breakaway companions rotated through and off for the next 60 kilometers, extending their gap over the peloton to ten minutes by the time they reached the base of the Monte Sant’Angelo. During this section of the race, Dowsett’s heart rate graph flows up and down like the waves of the ocean. Gradually up, and gradually down, one wave flowing into the next.

Dowsett – working in the breakaway:
Time: 1:08:04
Average Power: 249w (3.2w/kg)
Normalized Power: 264w (3.5w/kg)
Average Speed: 53.6kph (33.3mph)

Dowsett working in the break in stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia
Dowsett working in the break in stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

Next up was the Monte Sant’Angelo – 9.4km at an average of 6.2 percent, it was by far the toughest climb of the day, and one that the peloton could certainly make inroads on the breakaway if they so wished. The pace in the breakaway was stiff, but nothing crazy seeing that there was still over 90km to go. Dowsett stayed well within the front group on the climb, tapping away at a steady 335w.

Dowsett – Monte Sant’Angelo:
Time: 38:48
Average Power: 329w (4.2w/kg)
Peak 30min Power: 335w (4.3w/kg)

Dowsett in the break on stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia
Dowsett in the break on stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

After a long and switchback-filled descent down into Mattinata, the breakaway’s gap was still around ten minutes, and they were starting to think about the stage win. The final 75km was incredibly lumpy, covered in short and steep climbs lasting anywhere from one to three kilometers each. Think: Italian Flanders, minus the cobblestones and cold, Belgian rain.

2020 Giro d'Italia stage 8 elevation profile
2020 Giro d’Italia stage 8 elevation profile.

The breakaway stayed together over the first few climbs, and finally, at 30km to go, the real race began. Dowsett was the first to launch, attacking from the back of the group, but only to be quickly brought back. The stage finale included two loops around Vieste punctuated by the Via Saragat which climbs for one kilometer at an average of 9.1 percent. The first time the breakaway reached the Via Saragat, Puccio and Holmes attacked. As the group began to splinter, Dowsett and Brändle found themselves off the back, their hopes of a stage win slipping away.

Dowsett – first climb up the Via Saragat:
Time: 2:53
Average Power: 482w (6.1w/kg)
Peak 30min Power: 335w (4.3w/kg)
Peak 1min Power: 591 (7.5w/kg)

Dowsett on the first climb in stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia
Dowsett on the first climb in stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

But not all hope was lost, and Dowsett and Brändle worked together after the climb to catch back onto the rest of the breakaway. Nearly five hours into the stage, Dowsett was able to trade pulls at over 400w in between the anaerobic efforts he was putting in on the climbs. Inside 19km to go, Brändle put in a dig of his own, but is quickly brought back. Then, straight out of a cycling tactics textbook, Dowsett counterattacked his teammate and immediately got a gap.

After just a few kilometers of riding solo, Dowsett already had a 50-second gap to the rest of the breakaway, but still with one more climb of the Via Saragat between him and the finish. Dowsett was in time trial mode – something he is very, very good at – although lacking the explosiveness to go flying up the climb like he did in the previous lap. While he was hemorrhaging time to the chase group – 25 seconds in 1km – the climb is short enough that he crests it with still a 20-second gap, and only 10km left between himself and a Giro d’Italia stage win.

Dowsett – second climb up the Via Saragat:
Time: 3:05
Average Power: 413w (5.2w/kg)
Peak 30min Power: 335w (4.3w/kg)
Peak 1min Power: 591 (7.5w/kg)

Dowsett on the second climb in stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia
Dowsett on the second climb in stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

Now with his mind firmly set on the finish, Dowsett powers along the coastal Italian roads to not only solidify his gap but blow the others out of the water by the time he reached the final hundred meters. With the chase group over a minute behind, Dowsett has plenty of time to sit up, celebrate, and soak it all in, his first stage win in the Giro d’Italia since 2013 when he beat Sir Bradley Wiggins in the time trial in Saltara.

Dowsett – final 10km:
Time: 12:00
Average Power: 333w (4.2w/kg)
Average Speed: 50.9kph (31.6mph)

Alex Dowsett's final 10km of stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia
Alex Dowsett’s final 10km of stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

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Alex Dowsett's final 30km of stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia
Alex Dowsett’s summary data for stage 8 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia.

Dowsett – Giro d’Italia Stage 8:
Time: 4:55:37
Average Power: 273w (3.5w/kg)
Normalized Power: 316w (4.1w/kg)
Max Power: 1264w (16.5w/kg)
Average Heart Rate: 136bpm
Max Heart Rate: 175bpm

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/4177246594/