Owain Doull says it feels “surreal” to take second place in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday (March 3).
The Team Sky Welshman said it was always his dream as a child to be at the sharp end of the Classics.
Doull won the sprint behind a solo Bob Jungels (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) to achieve his best result so far. He joined Team Sky in 2017 after racing with Team Wiggins for two seasons.
“Actually can’t believe it, growing up I’ve always wanted to be in the sharp end of these races, but to do it today feels surreal,” Doull wrote on Twitter.
Doull raced to a gold medal in the Rio Olympics team pursuit and this February, at 25, won his first professional race with a stage at the Herald Sun Tour.
“I’m super happy. I’ve changed a lot of stuff over this winter and I’ve re-focussed a few things and it’s all really starting to pay off now,” Doull said.
“It’s just nice to get that confirmation that all the hard work you’ve done over the winter building up to this has paid off.”
Jungels succeeded in a 16-kilometre move for the solo win.
With victory off the table, Doull turned his attention to getting the best possible result out of the early Classics race. He broke away with three others three kilometres from the line.
“I felt pretty good all day. The legs felt good and I was able to make that front split up the Kwaremont. Obviously that move came back and then the race was full gas chasing the front five,” Doull said.
“It was always looking like we were never going to bring Jungels back, and with about 3km to go I saw the lead-out trains and the chase really started to die and it almost stalled. So I thought right, I’m going to go full gas now.”
He moved clear with Jens Keukeleire (Lotto-Soudal), Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie) and Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), the latter blocking for Jungels ahead.
“We kept pushing and the gap looked good. I knew it was going to be tight, so I knew I had to go with 350m to go and I managed to hold on.”
Doull’s second place came ahead of Terpstra, who won the Tour of Flanders in 2018 for Quick-Step. This year, he leads the Direct Energie team.
Team Sky is counting on Doull in a young Classics team that includes Chris Lawless and a returning Ian Stannard, two-time Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner.
“I think it’s really good to see Yogi [Stannard] back at the level he was a few years ago,” said sports director Servais Knaven.
“It’s even nicer to see a young guy like Owain who has really stepped up this year. We all knew he had the potential but his Classics showings didn’t work out like we all hoped in the first two years.
“He’s making the next step now, or maybe five steps at once. Finishing second in this race and riding that final like he did is pretty impressive.”