Alex Dowsett is looking forward to catching up with an old friend as he races alongside Chris Froome for the first time in almost a decade this week.
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome will make his Israel Start-Up Nation debut at the UAE Tour which begins on Sunday, the first time he and Dowsett have raced as team-mates since what Dowsett calls the “Team Sky C team” in 2011.
“I very much feel like we’ve pretty much achieved the same things since Team Sky,” Dowsett told the PA news agency with a laugh.
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) February 20, 2021
“He’s won six Grand Tours and I’ve won six national time trial titles.”
It was pointed out to Dowsett that Froome now has seven Grand Tour titles to his name, having been awarded the 2011 Vuelta a Espana in 2019 after Juan Jose Cobo was disqualified for doping offences.
“Ah the b*****,” Dowsett joked. “That’s ruined my YouTube video.”
Dowsett and Froome often shared a room in their Team Sky days, but their paths quickly diverged.
“We got on really well, but beyond saying hello we haven’t really spoken for a long time,” Dowsett said. “The way Team Sky raced, he was always seventh or eighth wheel, you never saw him in the bunch to chat with.”
Cruising through the Emirati deserts.
We got our first UAE-kilometers in!@chrisfroome: "I felt the sand sticking to my legs and arms"Omer Goldstein: “It was great to ride again with my teammates and in my national jersey."
— Israel Start-Up Nation / Israel Cycling Academy (@TeamIsraelSUN) February 19, 2021
The best chance for a proper catch-up will come this week.
Froome spent his winter in California continuing his rehabilitation from the career-threatening injuries he suffered in 2019, missing his new team’s training camp last month.
As the 35-year-old continues to build fitness, Israel Start-Up Nation will this week line up behind Ben Hermans in the general classification battle, with Andre Greipel contesting the sprints.
“It will just be fun racing with (Froome) and getting stuck in,” Dowsett added. “It’s quite inspiring. With riders like Andre and Chris, these are seriously good bike riders with a lot of history.
“During training camp, I was paired in the sprints with Andre. We raced nine times and he beat me nine times, which I thought was quite a good result for me.
“Just to be able to watch someone so good in their niche of the sport is quite a privilege.”
Dowsett comes into the race after an off-season of highs and lows.
His planned assault on the revered Hour Record was postponed in December after he contracted coronavirus, but there was much happier news as he became a father for the first time.
Though he caught Covid-19 in late November, Dowsett said it had taken weeks for him to recover.
“In the short-term, the 14 days went as they did for lots of people – my symptoms were very much present but not debilitating,” he said.
The problem was the period after as Dowsett struggled to get going again. The 32-year-old went on a December training camp, putting in relatively light efforts, but it was when he returned home and his coaches asked him to turn up the power that he hit problems.
“My motivation was rock bottom and I just ached all over,” he said. “Cycling was hard, really hard. It got to a point where I was meant to do a four-hour ride and half an hour in I stopped and called my coach and said, ‘Something isn’t right’.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know I should have been starting to feel something and I just felt awful.”
That ride came a day before Dowsett’s daughter was born, more than a month after his diagnosis.
“Once Juliette was born I hopped on a Zwift race (using a turbo trainer) a few days later and suddenly everything was there,” Dowsett said.
“I started seeing numbers I recognised and I could get involved in the race. It was like overnight a switch had been flicked.”