Finding connections to hemophilia, even at the Tour de France
How professional cyclist Alex Dowsett raises awareness of bleeding disorders
Last week, I stumbled upon the Tour de France while aimlessly flipping through TV channels. This annual professional bicycle race is highly esteemed and considered one of the most difficult events in the sport. Watching it was thrilling. The competition was captivating, and the incredible athleticism of the cyclists was inspiring.
The race takes place over three weeks in July and covers multiple stages, including flat terrain, mountains, and individual time trials. The Tour attracts top cyclists worldwide and draws millions of spectators on site and through television broadcasts.
I was excited to learn, some time back, that the Tour de France has a connection to hemophilia, thanks to British cyclist Alex Dowsett. Diagnosed with severe hemophilia A at 18 months old, Dowsett is an accomplished professional cyclist who competed in the Tour de France in 2015 and 2019.
Considering the physical demands of a sport where crashes are common, Dowsett’s accomplishments at the top level of the cycling world are remarkable. In addition to being a two-stage winner at the Giro d’Italia, six-time national time trial champion, and former World Hour record holder, Dowsett is the only known elite professional athlete with hemophilia, according to his biography on the Little Bleeders website.
Dowsett was born in 1988 and diagnosed in 1989, when conditions were looking up for those with hemophilia. Due to the risk of blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis, a significant concern in the early 1980s, the treatment landscape underwent significant changes. Had Dowsett been born just a few years earlier, his life might have been much different.
In addition to his cycling accomplishments, Dowsett has advocated and raised awareness about hemophilia. In 2016, he started the U.K. charity Little Bleeders to support and encourage young people with bleeding disorders to “move more and be more.”
Hemophilia didn’t run in Dowsett’s family, so his diagnosis took them by surprise. “I was so fortunate that Mum and Dad took my condition by the horns so to speak, and right from an early age I was being taken to swimming lessons, sailing lessons, basketball and everything in between that would keep me active in a way that respected my condition,” Dowsett wrote on his foundation’s website.
“I don’t think I would have achieved what I have done in cycling without my [hemophilia]. I don’t think it’s a sport I would have ever considered had it not been for all the ‘usual’ sports like rugby and football being off the table as an option,” he added.
Dowsett has demonstrated resilience and determination and continues to be a source of inspiration for others living with hemophilia. To learn more about Dowsett, you can read about his story on Cyclist and HemAware. He also maintains an active presence on social media.
Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.