For each article in this long-running WATT WORKS FOR ME series from Cycling Weekly’s print edition, we ask a pro rider about their favourite things in training: what has helped them most in getting to where they are today. The aim is to get to the heart of the beliefs and preferences they hold dear when it comes to building form, maximising fitness and ultimately achieving results. For this edition, we speak to Owain Doull…
What’s been a big change since you started?
When I was younger, I used to do some pretty stupid stuff in terms of weight loss, such as trying to eat just fruit all day. You can get caught up in the idea, especially as an U23, that you need to climb well, that you need to be smaller, lighter. A lot of guys have a similar experience with under-fuelling. Even now, I have to make sure that I eat enough because, on easier days, I’m prone to thinking I can postpone the next meal.
How has your training changed with the move from Ineos to EF?
Ineos are renowned in the peloton for their big belief in volume and hours, in building a big foundation. That means you’re constantly doing 27-30-hour weeks. With EF, I do fewer hours, and I think that’s partly because of how the racing has changed, becoming a lot more aggressive and explosive. You have to cater for that with higher intensity and less volume, and it’s benefiting me. These days, on a three-hour ride, I’m often into a 20-minute effort from the moment I leave the door, with efforts all the way until I finish.
Rider profile: Owain Doull
Height: 5ft 11in
Lives: Hayfield, Derbyshire
Rides for: EF Education-EasyPost
Best results: 1st – Team pursuit Olympic champion (2016) 1st – Stage 4, Tour de La Provence (2020) 2nd – Kuurne-Bruxelles -Kuurne (2019)
How in the UK do you train for alpine climbs?
There’s a misconception that if you are a professional you need to live abroad and have access to these longer climbs. Provided you do enough during training camps and races, you can replicate almost everything you need in the UK. You have to be clever with your training, including doing longer Zone 3 work on the turbo. I have Snake Pass 15 minutes from my house, and that’s a long enough climb to allow me to get in most of the work I need. Some days, I’ll ride up there 10 times! Because I’m from a track background, that doesn’t seem too bad to me.
On that point, how do you cope with repetition?
The track gave me this ability to be able to repeat efforts: it’s just lap after lap and nothing changes. To be good on the road, I need to do lots of turbo efforts, and I can easily sit on the turbo trainer for three hours, smashing out a load of intervals. It doesn’t bore me because I know it’s the best way for me to hit the right power numbers, the right cadence and hold the best position. I take enjoyment from knowing what the end product will be.
Do you still do training sessions on the track?
Sporadically through the winter. Once or twice a week, I’ll ride from Hayfield to the velodrome in Manchester, do two hours behind the motorbike, most of the time with the U23 and Madison lads, and then ride home. It’s an easy way of getting some intensity in.
Do you cross-train?
In the winter, I try to go out on my mountain and gravel bikes a lot because I’m a big believer in the benefits of being able to jump between different bikes. It’s a different stress every time, slightly different positions, each demanding different things. Most off-road mountain bike climbs are pretty steep, and you ride them in your smaller gears, doing 170-180bpm [heart rate] just to get up there, and then you have got to concentrate on a technical descent. It’s a way of pushing hard without it feeling excessively mentally draining.
What’s your ideal pre-race routine?
Three days before, I recommend an easy hour’s ride, and then two days before go out for four hours with a mixture of efforts across all zones. The day before, head out for three hours with quite a bit of intensity. If I’m too fresh and my legs are too ‘soft’, I can’t race properly – I need some fatigue in my legs.
Power meters – how important are they?
They’re invaluable training tools but they can be dangerous if they prevent you from listening to your body. Don’t compare your numbers with another rider’s. I can’t match Remco Evenepoel’s number from when he was 18, I’m miles off it – but that’s OK!
Motivational song/artist? ‘Run Boy Run’ by Woodkid
Place to ride? Wales
Type of race? Classic
Way to spend a rest day? Sofa or beach
Cafe stop treat in Britain? Brownie
Cafe stop treat in Europe? Almond croissant
Sport or hobby away from cycling? Rugby
Inspirational sportsperson? Siya Kolisi [captain of South Africa rugby union team]
Guilty pleasure? Three-course meal in expensive restaurant
Quality in a training partner? Good chat
This article was originally published in the 25 August 2022 print edition of Cycling Weekly magazine. Subscribe online and get the magazine delivered to your door every week. (opens in new tab)