Alex Dowsett has told VeloNews that his career as a WorldTour racer will end at the conclusion of this season with the veteran rider bringing down the curtain on his 12-year run of racing at the highest level.
The British pro will not stop racing entirely with plans in the works to race a combination of time trials, gravel events and a host of other projects in 2023 and beyond.
The 33-year-old turned professional in 2012 with Sky Procycling and won two stages of the Giro d’Italia, a stage in the Tour of Poland and six British national time trial championships. He also represented Great Britain at the UCI Road World Championships on eight occasions in time trials but his most memorable individual performance perhaps came on the track in May 2015 when he set a new record for the UCI Hour Record at 52.937 kilometers.
“I’m happy to stop and I am happy with what I won,” Dowsett told VeloNews the evening before his retirement became public.
“I’m happy with what I’ve achieved in the sport and I honestly don’t think that if I stayed in the sport for another two more years I could achieve more than what I’ve done. This is the first year that I’ve had this mentality. I’m turning 34 soon and I’m not getting any younger. The game is changing, and that’s fine. I’ve tried to keep up, and I’ve tried to evolve and stay ahead of it where I can but inevitably I’m just happy to stop. I don’t think I can improve on my career on the road, so it feels like the perfect time to stop.”
Dowsett came through the ranks at Trek-Livestrong in 2010 and was quickly picked up by Dave Brailsford’s Sky team. Known for his strong time trial skills, Dowsett quickly formed a strong bond within the team but with opportunities in major races hard to come by he transferred to Movistar in 2013 where he arguably had his best years.
He beat Bradley Wiggins to a time trial stage win at his Grand Tour debut in the 2013 Giro d’Italia before taking the UCI Hour Record two years later. A move to Katusha, which later morphed into Israel Start-Up Nation, followed in 2018 before Dowsett took his second Giro stage win in 2020.
In the latter half of his career the British rider has evolved from a pure time trialist into a solid all-rounder, often forming part of a sprinter’s leadout train.
Retiring from the WorldTour became more of a possibility as this season went on. Dowsett had offered his services to a rival WorldTour team at the start of the season but as the year wore on he decided to pull back on trying to find a concrete contract extension.
“Getting older, I see other leadout trains and they’re bloody good. You look at a team and you wonder where you fit in. And if you don’t then you shouldn’t be surprised if they’re not interested. We tested the water really lightly with a few teams but I called it pretty early because I didn’t want to go through that stress again, and I didn’t want to put my family through it either. I’m happy to stop and there are other things that I want to do on a bike for the next few years. I want to focus on that instead of waiting around for the phone to ring to find out if I have or haven’t got a contract.”
While one door closes another opens and Dowsett and his wife Chanel are busy putting the finishing touches to next year’s plans. The rider and his family are shifting away from a world in which every decision is dictated by a team or a sports director to one in which the rider and their family make all the calls from top to bottom.
Along with race schedules there’s the myriad of questions to resolve around sponsors and equipment. Dowsett’s charity work with Little Bleeders – he’s a hemophiliac – will obviously continue but there’s a whole host of plans in the works for next year.
“Now with what we want to do next year, with Chanel and I, it’s been really exciting and quite fulfilling. We’ve made really good headway and next year is about looking at events outside the pro scene. I’ve done a few events that have really opened my eyes and been really fun,” he told VeloNews.
Dowsett aims to dabble in a number of fields next year with time trialing in the UK set to form part of the plan. He also hopes to take part in gravel events – although he isn’t going to call himself a gravel pro – while there’s also a chance that he ventures to the US to race the crit circuit.
“I want to do all the different forms of racing that I follow and give them a go. I imagine some people will read this and think I’m going to race gravel but it would be highly arrogant of me to sit here and just say I’m going to be a gravel pro next year because I’ve never had any experience racing that format. Just because I’ve raced on the road for over ten years, I have no right to go and call myself a gravel pro. I do want to try it though, because it looks fun.
“I want to time trial in the UK too because going fast on a bike has always been an artform in my eyes. Then I’d also like to try my hand at the crit scene in America. What could be fun is reporting back on my Youtube channel about just how hard the crits are, and how much I’m out of my depth. I’d be fascinated to find out, and I just want to have some fun and ride on my own schedule.”