Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to read the citation for Alex Dowsett for the award of Honorary Doctor of Health Science.
Alex Dowsett is a professional cyclist – a British, Commonwealth and European time trial champion, and former holder of the prestigious Hour Record. He is the only able-bodied elite sportsperson in the world with haemophilia.
Born and bred in Essex, Alex attended Elm Green Preparatory School in Little Baddow, and King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford. Of course, his blood disorder prevented him from taking part in the usual contact sports enjoyed by most of his fellow pupils. But he was unwilling to allow his condition to limit his aspirations – and he found a focus for his energies in non-contact alternatives.
As a member of the Chelmsford Swimming Club, he started to build the lung capacity which would prove so valuable later in his career. And in addition to the many early-morning and after-school pool sessions, he began to stretch his legs on a bicycle, spending more and more time on two wheels – despite the obvious risks.
When Alex joined the Maldon & District Cycling Club, things quickly became more serious. In his first major event, the National Schoolboys time trial, he finished second out of a field of 100. And soon afterwards, he was invited to join the British Olympic Academy development team.
There are a number of specialisms in the world of professional cycling, and Alex’s particular strength is the time trial event – known as the 'the race of truth' because success relies solely upon each rider’s strength, speed and stamina.
There is no support from other team members. No drafting in the slipstream of competitors. It is bike racing in its purest form – the fastest time from A to B wins the prize. And Alex has won a great many.
In 2008 he won the under-23 British Time Trial Championship. In 2009 he retained his British title, then in 2010 won the under-23 European Time Trial Championship. In 2011 he won the first of a remarkable five British National Time Trial Championships – that’s two more than Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Alex’s first taste of success in a grand tour – cycling’s three blue riband events – came in 2013, when he won stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia – the individual time trial stage. Yet Alex’s greatest sporting achievement to date is surely his 2015 attempt on the World Hour Record.
This gruelling event is brutally simple – the cyclist must ride as far as they can around a track in one hour. The title of World Hour Record Holder has been cherished by the sport’s biggest names since it was first established in 1876. And on 2nd May 2015 Alex set off around the velodrome at Manchester’s National Cycling Centre.
One hour later he had covered 52.937 kilometres, beating the old record by almost half a kilometre, and making him the new World Hour Record Holder.
Although Alex refuses to allow his condition to affect his life, his is acutely aware of the impact that haemophilia can have upon sufferers. So in 2015 he set up the charity Little Bleeders – which supports young haemophiliacs, and promotes the message that despite having a blood disorder, young people can still live active lives and participate in sport, particularly swimming and cycling.
Alex has demonstrated the courage, commitment and personal sacrifice required to overcome challenges and succeed at the very highest level. He will be an inspirational role model for all our students – particularly for those studying Sports Science and Sports Coaching.
We are delighted to welcome Alex Dowsett to our Anglia Ruskin community.
Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to present Alex Dowsett for the award of Doctor of Health Science, honoris causa.