Welsh gold medallist Owain Doull, having completed a more than successful stint on the track, lands his dream road gig at Team Sky and will make his debut at Paris-Tours
Sir Bradley Wiggins, Doull’s team-mate in the team pursuit at the Games, has already called him “the next best thing” on the road, while Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford described the young Welshman as “a very exciting prospect”.
But Doull dismisses any suggestion of the pressure of expectation, and seems to be taking being one of Britain’s best young talents all in his stride.
“There’s not so much pressure, I’m just looking forward to a new challenge, a new way of living, a new way of training,” he tells Cycling Weekly. “Everything we’ve done for the last three or four years has been so focussed towards the Olympics, I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can push it on the road now.”
A two-year contract with Sky is Doull’s reward for an impressive 2016. He had the option to go pro on the road in 2014 with French squad Europcar, but chose to join Team Wiggins instead and continue focusing on the track. It was a bid that paid off this summer — he already has the date of the gold medal winning ride tattooed on the inside of his left arm.
Yet joining Sky, he admits, has always been his dream. When his signing was announced, he posted a picture of himself as teenager sat beaming on the Team Sky bus in 2010.
“It’s a bit daunting to be honest. In Sky’s first year in 2010 I was still a junior, I was 17. Growing up wanting to ride for Sky was a boyhood dream almost,” he says. “To be here this time later, in almost my first professional year with them, it’s surreal.”
He joined the British Cycling Olympic Development Programme in 2010, moving on to the Academy in 2012, and his path to the WorldTour has been almost textbook through the BC system via the Olympics. Sky seems the perfect fit.
“It’s quite nice in the sense that there’s already a pathway there [from previous riders] and you can see it’s [success] very achievable. That if you can do these certain things, it’s transferable almost,” he says.
Ed Clancy, Doull’s team pursuit team-mate, described him as like a young Geraint Thomas in “almost every way — his attitude, his personality his enthusiasm and his talent” and comparisons can easily be made between the two, not least because they share the same home town.
Thomas also won Olympic gold twice as part of the team pursuit before concentrating on the road, and he too focused on the Classics — which is where Doull sees his future. Winning the Tour of Flanders is his ultimate goal.
“I love the feeling of one-day racing, where everything is one day; everything is on the line for that specific thing,” he says. “Those are the races right now, and as an amateur, that are more suited to me.”
Year one at Sky is, he says, all about learning by racing as many different races as he can, though he admits he would love to start a Grand Tour in the next couple of years.
“It’s almost like you go from primary school where you’re the oldest and all of a sudden you’re joining high school and you’re back to the front of the bus and the bottom of the pile!” he says. “It’ll be hard but I’m looking forward to it too, it’ll be a nice change.”
Doull is joining Sky alongside another highly rated young British rider Tao Geoghegan Hart, and Brailsford has called them part of Sky’s “second generation”.
“There’s a new generation of young guys coming through who I grew up racing with, like myself, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Adam, Simon [Yates], Dan McLay — they are all guys I was on ODP [British Cycling’s Olympic Development Programme] with when I was a junior so it feels like a bit of a new wave coming into the professional peloton.
“I look forward to being part of that and following what those guys have done.”