‘Scout report’ is a new series in which we highlight some of the lesser-celebrated-but-nonetheless-notable performances from British riders.
After last season I was doubtful I would continue cycling and was preparing to get back to grafting
Paul Double, 24 years old.
Rider type: Climber
Background: Hailing from Winchester, Hampshire, Paul has spent most of his cycling career with Zappi Racing. He joined Flavio Zappi’s set up in 2017 before spending a year at the top Italian development team Colpack in 2019. He re-joined Holdsworth-Zappi in 2020 after Colpack decided to have an exclusively under-23 squad (Paul had ‘aged out’ by then). Top results include second in the national hill climb championships in 2019 and 4th in the Tour of Bulgaria (2.2) last year.
Team: MG.K vis VPM (Italy). Italian team sponsored by a vitamin and supplements manufacturer (Mg.k Vis) and a petrochemicals company (VPM). The team was established as a UCI Continental team in 2014. The current squad is predominantly made up of young Italian riders, but it also includes Paul, as well as a Kiwi, his former Holdsworth Zappi teammate Paul Wright.
It’s a team Paul feels fortunate to be on after seriously considering cycling retirement last year. “After last season I was doubtful I would continue cycling and was preparing to get back to grafting”, he says. “Out of the blue, Flavio Zappi called me and said, ‘boy, you’ll be racing next year’. He’d bagged me and Paul Wright a ride with the team. So I am once again very thankful to Flavio.“
Paul has an Italian visa, meaning he can take advantage of the team accommodation and access the team’s race excellent programme. “The setup is decent”, he tells us. “We’ve got a place to stay out here in Italy and the calendar is that of a Pro Conti team rather than Conti side.”
Season so far
Prior to the Giro di Romagna this season he had accumulated a very solid set of results, including 18th overall at the Coppi e Bartali (2.1), including 9th on stage 6, and 11th in the youth competition at the Comunitat Valenciana (2.Pro). Paul concurs that he’s started well in 2021:
“It’s certainly been a positive start of the year. I’m really glad things seem to be coming together after battling away for a while! I just need to keep it up now to confirm this.“
“My strong ride at Coppi e Bartali, especially 9th on the last stage, as it confirmed that I can be there with the big guns in a pretty select group. Also, battling with Ayuso for the win at Romagna was fun and has given me a confidence boost.”
Any particular challenges?
“I think my age – and coming to cycling a little late – has held me back a touch. My inexperience has often shown, but this year I feel a more complete rider. That said, I am still learning and want to improve a lot.”
Name & date: Giro di Romagna, 22-25 April 2021
Location: Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Status: National Elite/U23
Course: A four-day stage race. All relatively short but with plenty of hills en route.
Stage 1. A lumpy stage with an uphill sprint finish.
Stage 2. A hilly 140 km, culminating with two 20-minute climbs.
Stage 3. The ‘queen’ stage, ending in an uphill finish at San Leo.
Stage 4. Flat sprint stage.
Further details: “It’s a national level race here in Italy but those who have raced know this doesn’t really give the full picture. Besides the step up in pro racing (especially with the distance) it doesn’t get much tougher. With lots of young riders fighting for a contract, it’s more often than not ‘ON’ all day. Having the same organiser as the Baby Giro makes it a real event, with TV coverage. All the best amateurs from Italy were there as well as a few foreign teams.“
Paul’s main rival for the race was Juan Ayuso, a young Spaniard who is headed for big things, having signed a five-year deal with UAE Team Emirates. Paul got caught out slightly on stage 1, underestimating the tricky uphill finish. He lost five seconds to stage winner Francesco Romano, but finished six seconds ahead of Ayuso.
On stage 2, Paul finished fourth, part of a select group of five riders all finishing on the same time. Ayuso won the stage, with stage 1 winner Romano coming in second.
Paul describes stage 3, the queen stage, as “tough … it was a case of staying near the front as it had potential to split all day.” The penultimate climb was ridden hard but there were still ’20-odd’ riders in contention as they reached the foot of the final ascent. Could Paul do enough to move in the GC lead?
“I knew to take the GC I had to lose everyone. I waited a bit to see what others were doing but decided to attack with about 3 km to go. Ayuso and Romano had seemed stronger with the punchier efforts all week so I decided to commit to a strong pace that I could sustain. I knew they would be hurting. I put in a few digs on the ramps but could only shift Romano before a short downhill prior to the 500m ‘wall’ to the finish – which I didn’t know was there (!). Ayuso had a few meters on me starting it after a few dirty cobbles and – unfortunately – it was a gap I couldn’t get back on the steep slope.”
Paul finished 13 seconds back on Ayuso. With Romano 38 seconds back, Ayuso took the overall lead, with Paul moving up to second in the general classification. It’s a position Paul held onto, but not until after a scare on the final stage:
“On the last stage, I stuck to the rider third overall – Romano – like glue. But towards the finale, the road narrowed. I lost position and the next thing I knew he was in a move up the road. Panicking, I shouted for people to let me through. Once I reached the front I went as hard as I could to get the dangerous move back, grateful for the help of my teammate, who helped me to salvage second overall.”
What did the result mean?
“It’s a nice result, but being close to a win doesn’t put you in the spotlight. I know it’s important now to continue being consistent and try to perform in the upcoming pro races, as these are the results that people see. On a more personal level, I was really happy and pleased to be performing how I feel I should have.”
“May looks pretty quiet but as June and July come we are expecting some more stage races which I look forward to. I just hope to put in some more strong performances that will hopefully get me noticed. Obviously, I hope to win a race this year after being close already!”