Read the latest from Brendan Gallagher on the world of cycling, including reaction from Movistar Team’s Alex Dowsett as he has to withdraw from his attempt on the Hour record next month.

THE spirit was and is there but the body wasn’t able.  Not yet anyway. Alex Dowsett’s decision to postpone his Hour attempt after breaking a collar bone in training earlier this month was surely the correct one. In the seven weeks between the crash and the intended attempt on February 27 at the Olympic Velodrome in London it would have been possible to get very fit by mortal standards but there simply wasn’t time to get in the shape of his life – which is the minimum requirement for anybody mounting an attempt on the Hour record.

Dowsett was back on rollers within five days of surgery but although you can alter your position for comfort there is still only so much you can do with a healing joint post surgery and his dad was ordering him off each day after an hour or so! That situation will have improved but all the time condition built up during a huge Christmas and New Year training in perfect conditions in Majorca was slowly disappearing.

The biggest problem however was that he would have missed the two blocks of full-on road racing he had pencilled in as an essential part of his preparation – the Challenge Majorca races later this week and then the Tour of Dubai next week. Without that top end sharpening in competitive conditions on the road he was going to fall short of what he felt will be needed. Also by having to work flat out to regain fitness by the 27th there would have been no time for a taper.

There was also the rest of his season to consider. Dowsett is determined to win a place in Movistar’s Tour de France squad – riding the Tour is the ultimate aim for every roadman – and when the hopes of mounting a credible Hour attempt receded he needed to recalibrate and prioritise that. This might be is best ever chance of earning that ride.

Meanwhile though he will sit back with the rest of us and see how the inform Aussie duo of Rohan Dennis and Jack Bobridge do in their respective attempts after both showing impressive form in the recent Tour Down Under which Dennis (pictured right) won for his BMC team.

“I’m convinced that the Hour is basically a road riders event but with an important dash of track expertise,” says Dowsett who rode so impressively in last year’s Friends Life Tour of Britain. “Track Pursuit riders will typically ride at 120rpm or more which I certainly can’t maintain over 60 minutes at any worthwhile power output. But looking at successful Hour records the rpm of all concerned seems much closer to 100 which is much more typical of a roadman .

“In an ideal world you would attempt the Hour record about 2-3 weeks after the Tour de France, which would give you just enough time to sharpen up on the track. But first you would need to actually get selected for the Tour, then come out of it completely healthy and injured. That’s an awful lot of ‘ifs’ which make planning such an attempt difficult.

“Rohan is rock solid as both track rider and a world class road TT rider, Jack is an absolute world star of the track who perhaps hasn’t quite translated that into road TTs since his U23 days. Again it’s that intriguing thing about getting the mix right, which one will work best? They are both very talented in their own ways and capable of putting quite a bit of distance into Matthias Brandle’s existing record of 51.852km

“For me the Hour has surely got to be about pace management. It the ability to ride those 17.3 second laps for the 250 metre track and to judge each lap to within a tenth of a second every time. That’s where the track experience is important I suspect. It will be interesting to see how the two Aussies approach it.” 


ON the subject of Majorca I’m just back from a few quiet days working on a rugby book project over there. You know the scene quiet warm hotel – crackling log fire in fact because the weather had turned wintry after a gorgeous New Year apparently – nobody around out of season, no ringing phones, decent coffee on tap 24/7  Perhaps a sunny day in between to sniff the sea bracing sea air.
Well the first person I bumped into in the passport queue was Brian Smith, busy as hell helping get MTN Qhuebeka (pictured left in their new 2015 kit) up and running for their first season as a World Tour team. Lots of good cycling chat ensued, as you would expect.

After an industrious first morning I left the comfort of my hotel room and writing desk and ventured forth to find a quiet corner in the cafe on the corner to hunker down for a cafe cortado or three. Ten minutes later none other than Sir Dave Brailsford, in full Sky regalia, was parking his bike up outside needing a hot chocolate to warm chilled bones on the way back from a ride on his morning off. Lots of good cycling chat ensued, as you would expect!

Come my penultimate day and finally a sunny but cold morning. I drove up into the mountains early with not another car or person in sight and finally sated with scenery and winding roads returned via the Lluc monastry to do the cultural bit. That done, I was just pulling onto the main road but was forced to slam on the breaks.

Down swooped the full Sky peloton plus, judging from their non regulation Sky kit, one or two GB team cyclists out there for the week and a few Team Wiggins riders.  They were touching 70kmph as they lined out and took the long left hander as they headed upwards towards the famous Sa Calobra climb. That’s where so many British track, as well as road stars, have suffered over recent years in the pursuit of glory and having just driven down from the vicinity I wondered if they knew that fresh snow awaited them.

No matter, it was, frankly, an exhilarating sight like watching an express train roar through a quiet rural station en route to somewhere very important. “Stand back, stand back, this train is not stopping” I could hear the announcer in my head. A few of the locals honked their car horns, not in derision or anger but appreciation. As the mini peloton disappeared and team cars disappeared out of sight they stood there nattering and gesticulating.

“Did you see Wiggins? He was at the back hardly peddling eating a cake” said one. “Are you sure, I didn’t think he was on the island this week,” said another. “I’m sure I saw Froome though and I definitely saw Konig and Roche the other day on Sa Calobra,” added a third. “They must have been in the middle there somewhere”    Probably, possibly, perhaps, hopefully.

I continued on my way back to the hotel taking care first not to wipe out Bauke Mollema who was out with his Trek team not far behind the Sky guys and ripping into the corners. At least I think it was him – the riders are so wrapped up in balaclavas and draped in scarves to warm their noses and mouths when descending that it’s sometimes difficult to tell.

The following morning, with a howling force eight gale blowing sand everywhere and the weekend warriors still in bed, I decided to take a back route to Palma and the plane home. And there on a long 4km straight what do I see? Not one, not two but three Pro teams practicing their echelon riding. A quiet productive week was had but I had forgotten just how much Majorca is now cycling’s winter mecca. Not so much an island but a village where without even trying you find yourself caught up in the action and the gossip. Bloody marvellous!


Marginal gains are nothing new it would seem.  Leafing through some long lost collectors copies of Wilson of the Wizard stories up in the attic over the New Year I came across a series entitled “Wilson, the trainer of champions” from the 1940s.  In this series one of his challenges was to train a British winner of the Tour de France although on this occasion no five year deadline was specified!  Wilson, the mythical wonder athlete who was born in 1795 and discovered the secret of perpetual youth, put his mind to the quandary of how to produce a world class climber in a land devoid of major mountains. This was the results of his thinking!


Voting closes on Saturday (January 31) for the Sweetspot Cycling Book of the Year for 2014. It’s a hugely difficult call but just a reminder of the ten runners and riders, and with voting close, your vote could count.
I’ve summarised the shortlist below, but head here to find out more and to cast that all important vote!

101 Damnations – Dispatches from the 101st Tour de France. Ned Boulting. Yellow Jersey.
Etape – the untold stories of the Tour de France’s defining stages. Richard Moore. Harper Sport.
Faster: The obsession, science and luck behind the world’s fastest cyclists. Michael Hutchinson. Bloomsbury.
Gironimo! Riding the very terrible 1914 Tour of Italy. Tim Moore. Yellow Jersey.
Lanterne Rouge – the last man in the Tour de France. Max Leonard. Yellow Jersey.
The Monuments – the grit and glory of cycling’s greatest one-day races. Peter Cossins. Bloomsbury.
The Breakaway. Nicole Cooke. Simon and Schuster.
The Race Against the Stasi. Herbie Sykes. Aurum Press.
The Race to Truth. Emma O’Reilly. Bantam Press.
Two Days in Yorkshire. Various. Pan Y Agua Velo Europe Ltd.