• 'This is a new chapter of my career,' says Dowsett
After Dave Brailsford's announcement 13 days ago that Team Sky would be reinforcing their zero-tolerance policy regarding doping, any departure from the team leads to speculation as to the reason why, particularly after the exit of their race coach Bobby Julich and directeur sportif Steven de Jongh following confessions of drug use during their racing careers, and that of their lead directeur sportif Sean Yates for family and health reasons. But if the announcement on Tuesday that the double British time trial champion Alex Dowsett is leaving to join the Spanish squad Movistar raised eyebrows, and caused brief speculation in the Twittersphere, that appeared to be down to inept PR.
It seems the clumsiness was on the part of the Spanish team, who are probably not aware of the situation at their British counterparts and announced their signing of the Briton the day after De Jongh's departure from Sky had been confirmed with a lengthy open letter confessing to doping. With exquisite irony given the criticism that Sky's travails have attracted, Movistar have positively bent over backwards to welcome back their leader Alejandro Valverde after his delayed two-year ban for his part in the Operación Puerto blood doping scandal.
Dowsett is understood to have left Sky for the Spanish team primarily because he will have a far better chance of getting a ride in the Tour de France next year, something which would not be certain at Sky given the competition for places within their squad. From Movistar's point of view, the Briton is a strong rider against the watch who can beef up their lineup in the team time trial which comes early in the race.
Recently, Dowsett said he felt the next stage in his career would be to establish himself in the major Tours such as France, Spain and Italy. Movistar have perhaps the best pedigree in that domain in cycling; their history goes back through a variety of sponsors to the early 1980s and as the Banesto team they were led by the five-times Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain.
"This isn't a decision I have taken lightly, Sky is a fantastic team and I was flattered that they wanted me to stay but I have a new opportunity and a new chapter of my career," Dowsett said.
The 24-year-old from Essex has spent two years with Team Sky after a spell with the Great Britain academy, and a year with the Livestrong-Trek under-23 team in the United States. He has rapidly established himself as a time trial specialist among the professionals, with wins this year and last, including a stage in the 2011 Tour of Britain, and eighth place in the world elite championships this September. He has been British champion at the discipline for the last two years.
As pressure increased on the International Cycling Union following the Lance Armstrong scandal, the British Cycling president Brian Cookson said he felt the UCI had just one chance to regain credibility.
"To be honest this is the UCI's last chance to re-establish itself as a credible organisation," Cookson said. "Unless we have a commission that the sporting community trusts to deliver verdicts on the big questions, the UCI, to put it honestly, will be stuffed."
The UCI has announced that an independent commission will be set up to investigate the Armstrong affair but has yet to offer any indication as to how its members will be nominated. It is expected that Wada and the IOC will play a part.