Owain Doull has earned himself a ticket to road cycling’s top tier, signing a deal with a WorldTour team for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
The Welshman has been racing with Team Wiggins this year and will do the same next term as he works towards his primary objective of competing in the team pursuit at the Olympic Games in Rio. However, his long-term ambitions have always been on the road.
Doull was on the brink of signing for the Europcar team towards the end of 2014 – a Pro Continental team this season but WorldTour at the time – but he chose to keep his focus on the track and join the new Rio-minded Continental outfit formed by Bradley Wiggins. He had held out hope of turning pro in 2016 with a team that would afford him space for the track, but he has ended up securing that big contract while having total freedom in the Olympic year.
“I’m pretty fortunate in a sense that everything is in place now,” Doull told Cyclingnews.
“It’s almost like I’ve deferred for a year so I can do the track properly and carry on with team Wiggins for 2016. After that I’ll stop the track for the foreseeable future and focus on the road, and see how far I can get with that.
“Not many people want to allow you to have a year out to do the track, so it was kind of a case of getting the right team for that. I’m really fortunate to be in a strong position in that I know what I’m doing until 2018, which is quite nice.”
Doull’s potential has been clear for some time now but it was his recent performance at the Tour of Britain that helped nail down the contract. The 22-year-old finished third on GC and won the points classification, thanks to finishing no lower than 11th across all eight stages.
“I had a few other options before then – I was having quite a good year, it was all lining up, then after the Tour of Britain it just all fell into place," he said.
“I had been competitive all year, in the 2.2s and U23 UCI races, and at the Tour of Britain I was performing on a bigger stage, I guess. It’s a big race at the end of the day, and that’s what kind of sealed the deal.”
It can’t yet be revealed where Doull is heading for 2017, but in terms of the rider he’d like to become, the Classics are what inspire him most. He had high hopes for the hilly and partly-cobbled World Championships course in Richmond but crashes and mechanicals put paid to his chances in the U23 road race – though he was fifth in the individual time trial.
“Personally, the Classics are the races I’d like to do – I’d probably see myself more as one-day rider," he said. "Obviously I’ll be a neo pro, so I’ll do a mix of races and find out what races suit me as a pro. At U23 level they [one-day] were the races I was better at but it might be completely different at a higher standard.”