Alex Dowsett has had Friday’s stage of the Tour de France circled on his calendar for some time.
The six-time British national time trial champion is not one of the big favourites to win the only individual race against the clock of this year’s Tour, but if he has a chance at a stage victory, this is it.
The 30-year-old is riding the Tour for only the second time, four years after his ill-fated debut in which he crashed heavily on stage four, suffering injuries which would force him to abandon on stage 12.
Crashes are a concern for any rider but for Dowsett, the consequences could be truly scary.
The Essex rider is the only known elite athlete with haemophilia – meaning his blood does not clot without medication.
The condition is manageable, but most youngsters who are diagnosed with it are quickly steered away from anything considered a dangerous sport.
Dowsett was lucky to find doctors with a different attitude when he first picked up a race bike at the age of 13.
“They said, ‘We would rather you played chess or learnt a musical instrument, but if this is what you want to do then we will support it’,” he said.
Dowsett was only 18 months old when his parents took him to the doctors concerned he bruised too easily.
“My mum demanded a blood test,” he said. “The doctor disagreed so much that he threw the documents at her.”
But his mum Jan got her test, and the results forced the doctor to apologise.
Dowsett, son of former racing driver Phil, never let the condition hold him back. He tried sailing, go-karting, and athletics before finding himself on a bike, all with the support of parents who have never wavered despite the risks.
“Mum says that while she is very proud of what I do, she will be relieved the day I retire,” he said.
Dowsett came through the Great Britain development programme before signing with Team Sky in 2011.
He moved to Movistar in 2013 and had his first big success with a time trial victory in the Giro d’Italia, and two years later broke the Hour Record – only for Sir Bradley Wiggins to go even further a month later.
His achievements inspired Dowsett to set up the Little Bleeders foundation, which works to promote a healthy lifestyle for young haemophiliacs, encouraging them to participate in things they might otherwise not, and also to try to widen the distribution of medication around the world.
Serious goals, then, for a man who faces all the other stresses and strains of riding the Tour de France.
Those stresses are only heightened for Dowsett’s Katusha-Alpecin team, which urgently needs new sponsors to avoid closure at the end of the season.
Dowsett has one year left on his contract but could find himself looking for a new employer sooner than he thought, and acknowledged the Tour is a shop window for all riders.
All the more motivation for Friday’s time trial. The 27km course, starting and finishing in Pau, is hilly but hardly mountainous, and Dowsett believes it could suit him.
The question mark is where his form will be 13 days into the race.
“This deep into a Grand Tour, it’s not like a normal time trial because you’re just battered and fatigued,” he said. “It’s just how hard your body and your legs will let you go.
“We’re all in it to win it but it’s the Tour de France, it’s probably the second most competitive time trial of the year to the world championships. If I can just get it all out, I’ll be happy.”
Even if a stage win proves out of reach, Dowsett does not feel any pressure of expectation.
“Knowing what my foundation does and my story does, it is like I win a stage of the Tour de France every day,” he said. “It is a much bigger picture.”