Great Britain boasts a proud tradition of producing world class track cyclists, and 20-year-old Welsh rider Owain Doull could well be the latest.
Having enjoyed success on the road representing the Great Britain development squad, Doull has returned to the track this winter and slotted almost seamlessly into the men’s team pursuit quartet.
And after adding a World Cup gold medal to their European Championship success two weeks earlier, Doull is relishing his role in the squad.
“To just be in such a high-calibre team to start with is pretty special,” he told RoadCyclingUK. “Especially in Manchester – to go sub four minutes with both rides was a good effort.
“Coming in, I did a lot of road stuff – Tour de l’Avenir, Tour of Britain and the under-23 Nations Cup – so switching back on to the track was hard.
“I wasn’t really expecting to make the squad, definitely not for the Euros, although I was hoping to make the squad for the Manchester World Cup.
“To make both squads, and then to win the team pursuit at both – it was pretty surprising but it was really pleasing at the same time.”
To be in such a high-calibre team is pretty special. To make both squads and then win was pretty surprising but really pleasing
And having grown up with British Cycling to reach this stage, Doull believes his grounding on the talent programmes stands him in good stead for competing in elite competition.
“I’ve been really fortunate in the sense that since I was quite young I’ve been in the system,” he said. “It gives you quite a lot.
“I think the main thing is just handling pressure. It’s one of the key things you experience when you’re younger.
“At the time you’re riding at junior track meets or junior Euros and you’re really nervous – like really nervous – and then you get to something like the Manchester World Cup or the Euros and you’re almost comfortable.
“While obviously the race is bigger, when you’re on the start line you’re not thinking about in that way. That’s definitely the main thing I’ve learnt growing up.”
The Welshman is now bidding to follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman and Olympic gold medallist Geraint Thomas as British Cycling bids to continue their dominance of the sport.
And having experienced it from the inside, Doull believes it is the coaching in place which makes British Cycling so successful in producing quality riders.
“I think the thing that makes it stand out is the support,” he explained. “I don’t think there are many nations who offer that same level of support.
I don’t think there are any other nations who offer the same level of support as British Cycling
“It’s a similar system to what the Aussies use, and you just have to look at the number of Aussie pros and British pro to see how it works.
“There are good staff at British Cycling and really good support in place.”
Such support also extends to the roads, where this year Doull bagged the points jersey at An Post Ras and rode in support of the Yates twins at the Tour of Britain.
It followed a difficult first year as seniors for many of the squad, and the Welshman admits it was good to have fulfilled their potential as a team in 2013.
“I didn’t know what to expect on the road this year,” Doull admitted. “I didn’t have a great year in my first season as a senior on the road. It’s always a bit of a shock.
“But I’ve really knuckled down this year after the track Worlds. I trained really hard on the road before so I got quite a lot of work done there and then came into the Nations Cup and the form was there.
“I came 13th in the amateur Flanders, fourth in the ZLM Toer and since then it was a case of getting a bit of a roll on and the results started to come.”
He explained: “I’ve been really pleased with my season this year and it’s good to see how you’ve progressed. It’s been really nice this year compared to last year.
I’ve really knuckled down this year after the track Worlds. I trained really hard on the road
“Then, it didn’t really going to plan – we had a young squad, Simon Yates had a few injuries and there was a lot of bad luck about. Nothing was going to plan last year, and then this year has been the complete opposite.
“The results were coming, the momentum’s built and we had a really strong year on the academy. Hopefully now I can just step on from that and keep progressing moving forward.”
And Doull, who also joined team pursuit team-mate Steven Burke to take an early overall lead at the Revolution Series, is certainly ambitious about how he intends to move forwards – starting with establishing himself in the team pursuit squad.
“My priority on the track is the team pursuit first and foremost,” he said. “That and the omnium are the only two Olympic endurance events.
“At the end of the day, those are the events that the money is there for so that’s the focus.”
At Manchester however, Doull also competed in the points race and the scratch race – coming fourth in the former, just a solitary point behind Italy’s Elia Viviani, who races on the road for Cannondale Pro Cycling in the top-tier UCI WorldTour.
Having already competed at this year’s World Championship scratch race in Minsk too, Doull is keen to continue in those events too when time permits.
“When the opportunity’s there to do the bunch racing, and maybe I can get on and put a bit of work in for them, I’ll give them a crack,” he explained.
At the end of the day, the team pursuit is what the money is there for, so that’s the focus
“Fortunately at Manchester there was a points race and a scratch race. They use the World Cup quite well in that usually the team puruit is the first day and then after that you’ve got the bunch races.
“It means you can focus on the team pursuit and then once it’s done you can re-evaluate and then focus on the bunch races.”
And the Welshman does not see his future as being entirely on the track either, as he bids to follow in the footsteps of former team mates Adam and Simon Yates after the Bury twins signed for Orica-GreenEDGE for next year.
Doull has agreed terms with An Post-Chain Reaction, managed by legendary Irishman Sean Kelly, and is keen to take his opportunity to kick on next season with a busy year ahead.
“After the Worlds I’ll be going out to Belgium and then it will be a case of getting back on the road and getting back up to speed,” he explained.
“Obviously the added thing this year is the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, so I’ll be doing the track there and I hope I’ll be doing the road as well.
“It will be a pretty busy year but I’m looking forward to it.
“I’ve got my own personal targets. I want to perform in the under-23 Nations Cup, especially the one-day races – you have the amateur Tour of Flanders and La Cote Picarde and they’re races that suit me quite well.
“I’d like to try and win one of those next year and then just get the form in the stage races, getting up there in the bunch kicks. I’m hoping this year will be the lead-on towards getting a major professional contract.”
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