An injury ended Alex’s hopes of participation in the London Olympics in 2012.
“Yeah, It was about three months before the Olympics. I spent a good two months in hospital because they had to put a plate in and I picked up an infection similar to MRSA, so I had two months on antibiotics and about four operations and all sorts, which was fun. So that ruled me out of the Games. But that’s pretty much standard bike racing to be honest: it’s mostly average or bad days but you never really remember those, you only remember the really good days like the Commonwealth Games.
“It’s funny, you know, at the time trial in the Commonwealth Games it was great. I won that and then three days later we had the road race and it was absolutely lashing it down, really cold, horrible circuit and it wasn’t something I’d prepared for and I don’t think I even made half distance on it, so you come back down to earth with a massive bump after that.”
Metaphorical bumps aren’t a problem but physical ones are a real hazard to a haemophiliac.
“When I told the doctors that I’d taken up bike racing, they said, ‘We’d rather you played chess, but if that’s what you really want to do then that’s fine’.
“By the time I got into cycling I’d kind of got on top of the haemophilia, I wasn’t having so many problems, which was largely down to the amount of swimming I was doing just to keep me really fit and healthy. That, along with the medication I have to take for it, was keeping the haemophilia at bay.
“It’s nice because I’m one of the first generation of haemophiliacs on good, synthetic medication. I’m also the first haemophiliac who is competing at this level of a very physical sport. The doctors are actually really wanting me to progress as far as possible in cycling because it’s sending out a message to young haemophiliacs and their families that it doesn’t actually have to hold you back. It’s very easy for the mothers to wrap their kids up in cotton wool and I think one of the big things for me was how active I was as a youngster. I was doing sports that I was allowed to do, but I did a lot of them. I think that’s the reason that my haemophilia is quite manageable, whereas if I had sat inside, done nothing and been really, really careful, then I’d actually have more joint and muscle problems than I’ve had being really fit and healthy.
“My parents worried massively – mum still does. When I was a kid, the doctors would always tell my parents the worst case scenario, like they said if I broke a bone I’d be in hospital for a month. In 2010 I broke my shoulder blade in Holland and I was back on a static bike in seven days and I was back out on the road in 10 days, and I won the European Championships seven weeks later, so…”
In addition to the knocks and the races, Alex has to cope with a pretty gruelling training regime.
“Sometimes it wears you down but other times it’s quite nice because you get to go home. Take this week for example, I’ve had the Tour of Britain which has been eight really hard days, but now I’ve got three days at home when I don’t really have to do much training because it’s all about recovering from Tour of Britain, so I can kind of enjoy myself a little bit, within reason.
No big nights out or anything like that.
“Yesterday my mate was racing a motorbike around Brands Hatch so I could watch that for a bit. Try and lead a normal life for a little while. With me and my mates a lot of that normal life revolves around cars. We all kind of buy and sell cars through my mate’s company, which is good fun because we’re all really passionate about it. We go go-karting a lot as well. It’s great because we’re all into different things. One of my mates is building a race-spec, Ford Mustang Fastback which’ll be cool, and another couple of the boys are into their Mitsubishi Evos. Yeah, we’ve all got our own little things going on, which is quite nice. Spend a fair bit of time in Nando’s as well.”
Alex is serious about his passion for cars.
“Yeah, I have the Lotus and the Mercedes. The Lotus came from the dealer at Silverstone gloss black. I had matt black Batman stickers put on it as well. Then, pretty soon after I took it over to Yiannimize [a top vehicle wrapping specialist in London]. I had an idea of what I wanted, and then Bert and Yianni disagreed with me and told me what would actually look best! I trusted them and it looks phenomenal now.
“My original idea was grey with bits of bright red or… something. Then I thought maybe orange with bits of black. I wasn’t really entirely sure, I had a lot of different ideas. At Yiannimize they actually had a Lamborghini Aventador sat there that they’d wrapped in a very similar colour and they said that would look amazing on the Lotus, so I trusted them and left the car with them for a week. They actually said that, even though the car is tiny, it was one of the hardest cars they’ve ever wrapped because all the panels are so big on it. Whereas on a normal car you have the front bumper, the front wings and the bonnet, on the Lotus it’s like one big front piece going from one door around to the other door. So, yeah, they said it was a nightmare. But it looks beautiful, so…”
DOW 553T is not Alex’s first private number plate.
“I’ve got one that was an 18th birthday present. Mum and Dad wanted to get me something that I could keep for the rest of my life, so they found N2 ALX. Everyone except my sister’s got plates. My mum’s got her initials, JMD; Dad’s got his initials and then on his work van he’s got his company initials as well. We’ve always had plates.
“I think it makes a car a bit more individual. I like having a car that no one else has got. I like having a car that turns heads and a plate adds to the individuality of the car. If I was rolling around in a car that just looked like every other car on the road then it’d annoy me. I had a C63 AMG before the ML and I loved it, it was an absolutely brilliant car, but after having it for half a year loads of them started popping up and it really frustrated me that there were so many. So that’s part of the reason I got the ML 63, I barely see any of them on the road. Given the fuel consumption on it, I now know why! I just like the individuality of it and I think a plate really adds to all that.
“DOW 553T couldn’t be more perfect. It’s difficult to find something that spells exactly what you want it to spell without compromising. It’s incredible to have something that’ll really stand out. There’s not going to be any hiding, that’s for sure! Everyone’s quite envious.”
Interview: Angela Banh
Story: Rick Cadger
Photography: Stan Thompson
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