Owain Doull dreams of Tour de France stage win as he makes surprise debut at 29 years old
Giro d'Italia illness leads to Tour silver lining for former Olympic champion.
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RONCHAMP, France (VN) – Owain Doull has a stage victory at the 2022 Tour de France as an ideal outcome as he makes an unexpected first start at the sport’s blue riband race.
“It’d be great to up the road a couple of days and to have a stage win. I think that’d be a dream scenario: to be in the race. I’m taking it day by day, but I’d like to live up to what the team expect from me, repay that faith in being here,” Doull told VeloNews.
Also read: There are 150,000 scenarios for the first week of the Tour, says EF Education director
The 29-year-old is one of the oldest debutants and he did not expect to be selected by EF Education-EasyPost.
Tour silver lining
His plans changed after he was forced to abandon the Giro d’Italia on stage 7 with gastroenteritis.
“I went to the Dauphiné with no bigger ambitions, thinking I might go to the Tour,” he said.
“Midway through, they said ‘this is the case, we’re thinking about picking you’ and we went from there. Here I am.
“It kind of has a feeling like everything has worked out for a reason. It’s easier to look at that when it has panned out for the better because otherwise, if I finished the Giro, maybe I wouldn’t be here now.”
Doull in dreamland
Doull wasn’t sure that he would ever make it to the Tour. He was an Olympic team pursuit champion at Rio 2016 on the track before turning pro with Team Sky, the previous incarnation of Ineos Grenadiers.
A handy cobbled classics rider with a second-place at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne to his name, Doull has become a valued domestique. But making the Tour team at Ineos Grenadiers, where he spent six years, is harder than getting into Berghain.
“Even on a team like EF, the caliber of riders is also super high. It’s something I always dreamed of doing, but it’s something you can’t take for granted. So to be here now is amazing,” Doull said.
“I know a lot of guys who are really good cyclists but will never get the opportunity to ride the Tour for various factors, whether it’s the team they’re in, the stage of their career, whether they missed the boat.”
In the court of the Danish king
Doull has settled into the race well during the first week, rooming with Magnus Cort, the attack-happy King of the Mountains.
“I don’t get to speak to him much because he’s always on the phone, doing interviews. He’s like the king of Denmark,” he said.
Also read: Cort relishes ‘best day of career’ in Denmark
The Tour is a different beast to any other race. Doull has been aware of the amount of tension and importance of good positioning at all times. “But the thing I notice more is the pure noise around the race. The amount of people on the road, that’s what creates it even more,” he adds.
The difference in terms of media attention has surprised him too.
“I remember going into the team presentation through the mixed zone – normally at a race like the Giro or whatever, you might have 10 or 15 journalists, whereas here there’s 50 or 60.”
EF Education more open than Ineos
Reflecting on differences between EF Education-EasyPost and his former employers Ineos Grenadiers, he said: “I think they’re a lot more open around the race strategy. It’ll be interesting to see how Ineos race this year.”
Meanwhile, the American team is going here with “kind of a dual plan”, with options for the general classification and a versatile line-up that can win stages.
His role has been to help their GC leaders Neilson Powless and Rigoberto Urán through the race’s tricky first week. The team will re-assess the plan after the Planche des Belles Filles on Friday, Doull says.