Team Sky neo-pro Alex Dowsett admitted his first win as a professional at the Tour du Poitou-Charentes came as a big surprise.
Dowsett kicked clear of the field late on the final stage to Poitiers and never looked like being caught, crossing the line six seconds clear of team-mate Davide Appollonio who won the bunch sprint for second.
The 22-year-old time trial specialist says he has exceeded his own expectations in a memorable first year with the team, explaining: "This whole season has seen me keep on surprising myself. Over the winter I just had one objective – not to disgrace myself this year. I just wanted to fit into the team, work for it and become a part of it.
"I hoped I’d get a good few results in time trials but I never thought my first win would come in a road stage. I thought maybe at some point it might in a time trial or prologue but never envisaged it being in my first or second year. I still can’t quite believe it."
Dowsett gave notice in his very first start as a professional that he was one to watch as he took fifth in the opening prologue at the Tour of Qatar, just behind the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Lars Boom.
He has now notched top five positions in six of his seven prologues or time trials and has also hit the ground running again after a mid-season break to remedy an ankle problem.
He said of that enforced spell on the sidelines: "I think the rest probably did me far more good than I realised. At the time I was worried I’d had two and a half weeks off the bike but clearly it’s done wonders for my form. I’ll probably have four weeks off next time!"
The victory in the final stage at the Tour du Poitou-Charentes was all the more special as it came immediately after a time trial the evening before which hadn't gone quite as well as Dowsett had hoped. He had finished fourth, just a second off the podium but 37 seconds behind fellow youngster Jesse Sergent, a win which set the RadioShack man up for overall victory as he eventually had 18 seconds to spare over second-placed Dowsett.
"My parents came out to watch the time trial," explained Dowsett. "And I think we were all a little bit disappointed with the result in that, in as much as missing the podium by such a small margin was a bit gut-wrenching. I was also a bit disappointed with myself for being so far back on Jesse."
"But to get the stage win is unreal and more than makes up for it - moving up to second overall was like the cherry on top.
"Having my parents here to see it made it extra special. My mum’s superstitious and thinks that every time she watches me race I do badly so we’ve more than put that one to bed now too!"
Dowsett was also keen to stress just how much he owes to his team-mates and admits than on the last day in France he almost had to pinch himself at times, saying: "Mid race I punctured but I was at the front and Mick Rogers gave me his wheel and I didn’t even go out the back of the peloton. If someone had told me last year that Mick Rogers would be looking after me and giving me his wheel when I punctured I’d have given them a slap [laughs]!
"My team-mates have been amazing, I completely owe this result to them."