Doull embarks on new beginning at Tour Down Under

WorldTour debut, sticking by Wiggins, and chasing Classics

Over a fortnight after landing in Australia Owain Doull is ready to make his WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under for Team Sky.

The Olympic gold medallist arrived Down Under on January 3, and along with a British clique that included Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas, the 23-year-old has made the best of the warm weather conditions to help kick-start his season. He will line up alongside the Henao cousins, his recent training companions and Danny van Poppel.

"I've been out here with a good group and got a lot of work done. From what the guys have said, WorldTour is a big step in terms of racing, so I'm not too sure what to expect but we've got a strong team across the board with Danny for the sprints and then Sergio and Geraint for the GC," Doull told Cyclingnews after a morning training ride.

As well as navigating van Poppel through the sprint melees, Doull will use his engine to protect Team Sky's GC aspirations in the race. As far as WorldTour debuts go, the Tour Down Under is ideal with its warm climate and relatively short stage distances. However Sky's lofty ambitions will ensure that Doull has little time to rest on his laurels.

"My job will be a bit of everything, really. I'll be there to help out Danny on the flatter stages. I'll be leading him out and then on the hiller days I'll be helping out the Henaos with water bottles and general domestique duties. There will be something to do every day. I'll be Danny's last man, and I know we've not had a lot of time to work on that, but I'm the best suited here to help him."

By the time he heads back to Wales, Doull will have spent a total of six weeks in Australia, heading from the Tour Down Under to Cadel Evans' race, before linking up with Chris Froome at the Herald Sun Tour.

However the main focus during his first season will be the Classics. Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite loom towards the end of February, while the ambitions of making the Sky team for Flanders and Roubaix are achievable.

"It's going to be hard making the team for the big races but that's my target for the first part of the year. I want to do a good job for the team there and that's what I wanted to really focus on in my first year in the Classics. That's what I was better at as an amateur but I know that it's different when stepping up to the World Tour. This is a good starting point though."

Wiggins still a hero

Cyclingnews' first interaction with Doull came in 2015 when the then U23 rider sat exhausted on the line after the Worlds time trial in Richmond. That day he scrawled the word ‘aero' on his hands – advice given to him by his then team leader and mentor Bradley Wiggins.

The pair rode together at the Olympics in Rio and won gold in the team pursuit but Wiggins' final year of competition was overshadowed by the Fancy Bears leaks, controversy over TUE use, and a medical package used to treat him at the 2011 Dauphine. While the Team Sky hierarchy have - by their own admission - made several wrong moves in the handling of the story, Doull to his credit has at least remained consistent and clear in his thoughts over his former team leader.

"To be honest nothing has really changed for me. I grew up with posters of Brad on my wall. I was fortunate to go through a special occasion with Brad at the Games in Rio and in my eyes nothing has changed. I think it's one of those things that when you've got someone of Brad's calibre the smallest thing will come under scrutiny but for me he's done nothing wrong. You can't get the TUEs without going through medical consultants and experts. You can't just go down the pharmacy and pick it up."

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