EF Education-Nippo announced the signing of Welshman Owain Doull on Monday. The 28-year-old confirmed to Cyclingnews earlier this month that he would leave Ineos Grenadiers after five seasons in the hope of getting more opportunities to compete in the Classics and Grand Tours.
Doull mixed road and track racing until the 2016 Olympic Games, where he won the gold medal as part of Great Britain's team pursuit squad. Moving to Team Sky first as a trainee after Rio and then signing his first WorldTour contract, he dedicated himself to a road career.
In 2019, he claimed his first victory with the team at the Herald Sun Tour, finished second in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and raced his first Grand Tour at the Vuelta a España. In 2020, he started the season with a stage win in Tour de La Provence, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of a close friend disrupted his season.
"From cycling, you learn a lot and it helps you grow and shapes you as a person. I lost one of my best friends to suicide during lockdown. I wasn't sure what to do. I carried on racing. It was difficult but it showed me how much I love the sport," Doull said announcing his move to EF Education-Nippo.
"If I'm going to sacrifice time away from friends and family, I want it to mean something and to be able to finish and say I've gotten everything out of myself, I couldn't have done anything more. That perspective is probably the thing I've learned the most from cycling."
Because the Ineos team had such depth, Doull raced a full slate of Classics and one-week stage races but missed selection for the Grand Tours.
He opted to leave for EF Education-Nippo in order to have more opportunities, telling Cyclingnews, "I need opportunities and the chance to gain that experience and ride the bigger races. I think that if I stay in this team then it's going to be tough for me to make Grand Tour selection. I know what level rider I am, and what I'm capable of, and I don't want to stop my career having not done the biggest races. It was a hard decision but also an easy decision at the same time."
With EF Education-Nippo, Doull hopes to move his career to the next level.
"I still have dreams and aspirations I want to achieve and I think EF is the perfect place to help me realize that," he said.
"The Classics are races I enjoy as well as playing a support role in big stage races, whether that's on the flat hectic finishes, team time trials, or mountain stages. I always like doing my part for the team and that's one of the things I find so attractive about joining EF. There's a mixture of opportunities I'll have and I'll be able to explore my limits more."
Doull aims to "get stuck into more Grand Tour racing", too.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity there of pushing myself and trying to support guys like Hugh [Carthy] as much as possible. A different style of racing completely, I think that's the thing I'm most excited for."
Team manager Jonathan Vaughters, who has a history of signing diamonds in the rough and then polishing them, sees Doull as a valuable addition to the Classics team.
"Owain is a very strong rider for the Classics, has a great little sprint on him, and is a good time trialist," Vaughters said.
"More than anything, Owain is a guy who can win one of the smaller semi-Classics. I thought it would be good to get a rider like that who would have the kind of freedom to accomplish some goals and will reinforce our Classics squad in general and give us one more option beyond Alberto Bettiol and Michael Valgren.
"He hasn't been given the opportunity to race very many Grand Tours in his career and I think that that's something he'll be quite successful at once he's given the chance. He'll not only be a successful worker but also, a little bit like [triple Vuelta a España stage winner] Magnus Cort, he can get out of the breakaway and win from the break."
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