Monthly Archives: April 2015

Bloody minded: Dowsett’s record bid

“It’s my way of life – on Saturday morning I’ll get up and pop a needle in my arm.”

No, you’ve not read that wrong. Pivotal to Alex Dowsett’s attempt to break cycling’s iconic hour record on Saturday will be an appointment with a needle in his Manchester hotel room.

Unlike generations before him however, most infamously

Lance Armstrong,

Commonwealth time-trial champion Dowsett will leave the hotel with his blood enhanced, but his conscience clear.

Why? Because the 26-year-old is one of 6,000 people in the UK, mostly men, who suffer from haemophilia – a potentially life-threatening condition which stops the blood from clotting properly.

‘What the hell are you doing?’

Dowsett, who won gold in

last year’s Commonwealth Games time trial,

and silver in 2010, is a trailblazer. Amid warnings of future days spent in wheelchairs, doctors recommended he take up chess or a musical instrument.

He chose professional cycling for a career instead, with sports cars as a hobby.

There are not believed to be any other able-bodied, elite sportsmen or women with the condition, which has contributed to some interesting incidents in professional cycling – a sport in which the use of needles is banned because of its drug-tainted past.

“When I was riding for Team Sky [2011-12] they didn’t actually warn any of the riders that I was a haemophiliac and what that would involve,” said Dowsett – who has special dispensation to inject himself every 48 hours with an engineered version of the clotting protein Factor VIII as his body doesn’t naturally produce it.

“One of my team-mates – [Norwegian] Lars Petter Nordhaug – walked in when we were at the Tour of Qatar one year and said, ‘Alex what the hell are you doing?’ I had to explain it to him.”

The far from Perfect Hour

The need for explanations have been a theme for Dowsett, three times the British time-trial champion and a stage winner in the 2013 Giro d’Italia, of late.

Within cycling, the hour world record has a mythical status – an iconic physical challenge in which a rider has to cycle as far as he can in one hour around a velodrome.

The event is currently enjoying a renaissance – Australia’s

Rohan Dennis set a new record of 52.491km in February

and Sir Bradley Wiggins will make his own attempt on 7 June – but not everyone has got their head around it.

“Loads of people have asked me, ‘what time are you hoping to do it in?'” says Dowsett, who is planning on riding the Tour de France later this summer with his professional team Movistar.

Alex Dowsett

Dowsett was back riding seven days after breaking his collarbone in January

His attempt, at Manchester’s National Cycling Centre, has been marketed as the

Perfect Hour 

but his preparations – and the timing – have been anything but. Originally scheduled for late-February, a broken collarbone sustained in a training crash

led to it being postponed.

Fit again, the Essex rider has been training at world-record pace – “it’s not comfortable but it’s manageable” – and is adamant the spectre of Wiggins’ attempt five weeks later will not affect him on Saturday.

“It’s not going to make a blind bit of difference,” Dowsett says. “Somebody told me that he put up on his

Instagram account 

that he was doing 20-minute blocks at 55kmh. If he’s doing that then he is just going to blow whatever any of us do out of the water.”

Need for speed

Dowsett’s journey towards professional cycling began underwater. Swimming, because there is no impact, is the most-widely recommended exercise for haemophiliacs and Dowsett – after brief forays into rugby and football – showed talent.

But, with dad Phil a former British Touring Cars competitor, there was always a need for speed.

“At the age of 11 my dad and his mates collectively had a mid-life crisis and started mountain biking,” says Dowsett, who has owned a number of sports cars, including a Lotus Exige.

“I joined them. Two years later I asked one of the guys on the rides if I could have a go on his road bike – it all went from there.

“I’ve pretty much got petrol running through my bloodstream at all times. Fast cars are probably not a good idea either but it’s kind of like cycling. Cycling is a very good sport for people with haemophilia until you crash.”

Lotus Exige

Self-confessed petrol head Dowsett counts the Lotus Exige among his former cars

Dowsett has had his fair share of tumbles. But they are treated with the same two-fingered salute he gave the nay-saying, board-game pushing doctors of his youth.

“The doctors told me when I was a kid that if I broke a bone I’d be in hospital for a month,” he said.

“I’ve broken my shoulder blade, collarbone, elbow and two ribs and I was out of hospital within a week with all of them.”

A medical pioneer

In Dowsett’s lifetime the treatment of haemophiliacs has evolved considerably. In the past physical activity was all but outlawed. Now it is actively promoted and Dowsett runs the foundation

Little Bleeders 

to help raise awareness.

Does he feel he’s helped change the viewpoint of medical science? “I’d like to hope so. I am used as an example of what haemophiliacs can do nowadays.

“I was very lucky in [terms of] when I was born; had I been born five or 10 years earlier they’d have treated me with straight blood transfusions.

“A lot of haemophiliacs older than me have got HIV and hepatitis from contaminated blood. Luckily I was straight onto the synthetic medication so there was no risk at all.”

The words “synthetic medication” have sinister overtones in the context of professional cycling.

But for Dowsett – and a generation of fellow haemophilia sufferers – Saturday’s injection will be performance-enabling rather than performance-enhancing.

A subtle – and powerful – difference.

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Puncture costs Thomas Romandie lead

Geraint Thomas has lost the leader’s jersey in the Tour de Romandie after a puncture late on the second stage cost him over four minutes.

The 28-year-old punctured on the final climb of the stage into Saint-Imier.

Fellow Team Sky rider Chris Froome is now third in the overall standings after finishing in a reduced peloton.

Froome, who also punctured but recovered, is 10 seconds behind Michael Albasini who took Wednesday’s 168.1km stage and with it the overall lead.

Tour de Romandie Stage 2 results

Michael Albasini

(Switzerland / Orica) 4:21:43″

Jarlinson Pantano

(Colombia / IAM Cycling) ST

Julian Alaphilippe

(France / Etixx – Quick-Step)

Nathan Haas

(Australia / Cannondale)

Rui Costa

(Portugal / Lampre)

Damiano Caruso

(Italy / BMC Racing)

Ilnur Zakarin

(Russia / Katusha)

Ivan Santaromita

(Italy / Orica)

Jan Bakelants

(Belgium / AG2R)

Ramunas Navardauskas

(Lithuania / Cannondale)

Chris Froome

(Britain / Team Sky)

Overall classification after Stage 4

Michael Albasini

(Switzerland / Orica) 4:42:52″

Ivan Santaromita

(Italy / Orica) +10″

Chris Froome

(Britain / Team Sky)

Simon Yates

(Britain / Orica)

Ilnur Zakarin

(Russia / Katusha) +15″

Pavel Kochetkov

(Russia / Katusha)

Egor Silin

(Russia / Katusha)

Yury Trofimov

(Russia / Katusha)

Simon Spilak

(Slovenia / Katusha)

Julian Alaphilippe

(France / Etixx – Quick-Step) +20″

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Tiernan-Locke: I want to race again

Ex-Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke wants to return to cycling in 2016 after a two-year doping ban.

The now 30-year-old joined Team Sky in 2013 after a superb 2012 season in which he won a string of races including the Tour of Britain.

But he was sacked last summer when a UK Anti-Doping panel found him guilty of using the banned blood-booster EPO.

“I want to race next year and I’m starting to formulate a training plan for this summer,” Tiernan-Locke said.

“I’ve been riding with friends locally – it’s not really training yet but it’s felt good and I’m ready to step it up.”

The Devon-based rider says his general fitness is good but he has put on some muscle and now weighs 80kg, or 12st 8lb, which is more than 2st above his racing weight.

His plan is to start racing again on the British circuit but says he sees no reason why he cannot return to the international scene as his form comes back.

This is a far cry from his angry reaction in 2013 and 2014, as his career and reputation came crashing down around him when he became

the first British athlete

to be sanctioned on the basis of abnormal blood values in his biological passport.

This is the electronic record of every blood and urine test an individual athlete takes, although in Tiernan-Locke’s case it was the very first test he took for his passport that caused his downfall.

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke

Tiernan-Locke looked like a future star when he backed up his Tour of Britain win with a fine showing at the 2012 World Road Race, but he had already given the blood sample that would ruin his career

The test, taken a week after wining the Tour of Britain for the British-based Endura Racing team, did not match the samples he gave while riding for Team Sky in 2013.

He continues to say the discrepancy in his blood values was not related to doping but was because he was dehydrated after

getting drunk

with his girlfriend to celebrate his move to Team Sky.

The case dragged on for almost a year, during which time he was suspended by Team Sky, and the

eventual outcome  

left him bitter and confused.

He has spent the last six months working on a new building and property-development business but has found himself watching more and more cycling on TV, and enjoying riding with friends again.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry by what happened,” he told the BBC.

“But you can’t carry that around forever. Time really is a great healer, and I’m the type of person who is quick to forgive and forget.”

However, he admitted he would “jump at the chance” to clear his name and has recently been talking to his lawyer about a possible appeal through the British courts.

This avenue has recently opened up to athletes in Tiernan-Locke’s position after German speed skater

Claudia Pechstein

was given permission to challenge a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling – previously considered to be final and binding – through the German courts.

In the meantime, however, Tiernan-Locke is looking forward to “putting himself back in the shop window” and riding in non-affiliated sportives in the UK this summer.

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Cavendish wins second stage in a row

Mark Cavendish made it back-to-back stage wins at the start of the Tour of Turkey with victory in Antalya.

The 29-year-old Manxman won a second successive sprint finish, beating Italian Sacha Modolo on the 182km leg to retain the leader’s jersey.

The Etixx Quick-Step rider was presented with a

huge bunch of bananas 

after winning in Alanya on day one.

Cavendish leads Modolo and fellow Italian Nicola Ruffoni in the eight-stage race, which finishes on 3 May.

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Cavendish wins Tour of Turkey stage

Mark Cavendish won the opening stage of the Tour of Turkey in a sprint finish.

The Manx man beat Caleb Ewan and Nicola Ruffoni to the line by half a wheel at the climax of the 145km stage.

It was a seventh win of the season for Cavendish, who will now wear the turquoise leader’s jersey on the second stage.

“There are a lot of big sprinters at the race this year. So we knew it would be chaotic, and it really was,” he said.

“This is also my first race back after taking some time off. I got sick in South Africa and had to stop and get over the virus. Just to stop and reset everything and to now get going again, it is quite nice,” added the Etixx – Quick-Step rider.

“I don’t think I’m in as good of condition as I could have been without the interruption, but I am definitely happy where I am.”

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Johnny’s favourite stores