A Conversation with Owain Doull
Owain Doull MBE is a professional road cyclist and double Olympic champion. Currently Owain rides for legendary UK cycle team INEOS Grenadiers. He has also recently launched 5 Rings Coffee roasters along with friends Phil Hindes MBE and Callum Skinner – both also Olympic cycling champions.
5 Rings, based in Manchester presents the cross-over of a passion for coffee and the mindset of professional athletes. With unparalleled attention to detail and a unique story behind each coffee they roast; 5 Rings is brand new to the coffee scene but one to watch for sure!
We caught up with Owain to chat about everything from coffee, to cycling to his thoughts on the new INEOS Grenadier utility vehicle.
To register your interest & get exclusive updates about the Grenadier click here.
So – COVID… How’s your season going so far? Have you managed to keep up training + team engagements with all the various restrictions we’ve all had?
So far it’s been good. The start of the year was difficult with Covid & being a UK resident, it wasn’t easy to get out of the country, A lot of countries weren’t allowing us to enter so I missed part of the first bit of the year, specifically the training camp. So we had to get a bit creative with training in the UK. Apart from that I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve had both of my jabs, haven’t had Covid yet and I feel very lucky.
Tell us about 5 Rings Coffee
5 rings was started by myself and two of my best friends, Callum Skinner and Phil Hindes.
Where and when did your interest in coffee first start?
We all went to the Rio 2016 Olympics together & have had quite a nice journey as a group of friends together. One of the things we always bonded over was coffee. Being a cyclist there’s not too many things you can do in your spare time but enjoying coffee was always one of them. Especially in the GB track cycling team, and in cycling generally, coffee culture was always ingrained.
I guess with Callum and Phil being sprinters and me being a road cyclist it’s not like we could train together very often so a café stop where I’d do a longer loop & they’d do a shorter ride out…was good. Or if we were all at the track or the gym and we’d meet together to grab a coffee, it was just our way of catching up & sharing the craic.
It’s something we all share, the love of coffee & something we’re all passionate about and when the idea sprung up & we were all keen for it so we thought, why not?
Launching in the middle of Covid, in the middle of the first lockdown was a bit risky but so far it’s been amazing and the support for the coffee and for the brand has been amazing so we’re very happy.
Credit: Getty Images
How do you choose & source the coffee you roast at 5 Rings?
Sourcing & choosing the coffee at 5 rings is predominantly down to Phil. He’s the most finnicky and scientifically minded. He has a background in coffee already by doing roasting courses and things like this so he’s always been the brains behind the operation in that sense I guess.
He’ll source the coffee and choose it or make recommendations. For us it’s also about representing some of the places we’ve been and stories we have to tell & tying it into that. Coffee, for me anyway; the tastes and flavours remind me of certain places, so that’s a key part of how we choose the coffee.
Do you incorporate caffeine from coffee into your training plans? Do you find it at all beneficial?
Caffeine is a big part of my training, I guess, and also; racing. In racing you use caffeine supplements at the back end of the races to pick it up.
I rely on a steady diet of caffeine, day to day and that’s usually in the form of a coffee. When I’m away I’ll always take kit with me, whether it’s a V60 or an Aeropress. I grind my beans myself and performance-wise & how I start my day it’s with the benefit of caffeine. Especially when I’m away from home it’s the consistency of routine that I enjoy. It’s the same thing I do every day whether I’m making an espresso or a flat white at home or a v60 or an Aeropress on the road; it’s a big part of my life.
What’s your go-to way to make coffee at home?
Flat white normally, unless my training or my diet dictates no milk. It’s normally a flat whit to start the day, followed by another flat white! I usually cap it at two before training otherwise I’ll get the coffee shakes. But that’s my go-to.
Credit: Getty Images
And when you travel – what’s the main kit you take with you?
I used to be more into my Aeropress but recently I’ve actually moved over to a V60. I like the pour overs a lot more now, so I’ll take a Hario v60 with me. I’ll also take a Hario grinder, goose-neck kettle, scales, 5 ring coffee, filters and then I have a big thermal jug to pour everything into. I’ll make one large batch so I can have one cup at breakfast & then one cup on the bus or on the way to the start line.
We’ve all seen the INEOS team bus but tell us – can you make a good brew on tour?
I’ve never tried to make a coffee on the bus before actually. Normally I make it In the room and take it down with me. The boys are always begging for a coffee from me because they know it’s the good stuff so sometimes I make a big pot & it can disappear very quickly!
On the bus we have a straight up capsule machine which, before a race, can serve a purpose but it’s not my ideal drinking method.
What has been the sharpest learning curve, both in your coffee & your sport career?
I guess the scale of the response when we first started was a bit overwhelming. We weren’t expecting that.
We were passionate about creating something ourselves, almost for ourselves. Sourcing our coffee ourselves we thought would be a fun thing to do, and it’s actually blown up a lot more than we thought. So just getting used to that demand has been the sharpest learning curve.
Also, you’re constantly learning when you start a business, we’ve had a lot of really good lessons and we just try to implement and build on everything we’ve done so far so we’re constantly improving.
We like to take our time with sourcing the coffee or the packaging, and making the labels, creating our stories, designing logos. With all of our backgrounds in track cycling and elite sport you’re so tuned in to thinking about the small stuff, the marginal gains and that’s an ethos we’ve tried to apply to the coffee as well.
How do you balance the two roles?
Yeh, it’s difficult. Obviously all of our calendars are different and hectic so we try to plan really carefully who’s going to be managing what. But planning is key.
It’s not straightforward, having the two roles but it’s something we all enjoy. If I get back from training and there’s some work I need to do for the business then I’m more than happy to do it. It’s something I enjoy and it actually helps me switch off from cycling and not feel like solely a bike rider.
Tell us about your work fundraising for mental health charities (Break the chain coffee) and the Siôn Mullane foundation.
I’ve always wanted to use my platform for good causes, to promote things that I believe in and feel strongly about and I think Callum & Phil are very similar.
When we started 5 rings there were things which were very important to us as well. One of the those being the sustainability factor, that was a big driving force behind our ethos. I think that’s evolved into the work we’ve done with the Break The Chain coffee; supporting mental health.
Personally I like to be involved as much as I can with projects I’m passionate about. Recently I launched a foundation with some friends, the Siôn Mullane foundation. This foundation aims to enable underprivileged children to have better learning and career opportunities. It’s a big driving factor in a lot of decisions I make in my life & it’s something I’m really proud of.
Credit: Getty Images
How are you currently prepping for your next race & what coffee will you be drinking while you’re there?
I’m currently answering these questions at the tour of Poland. I have about 15 minutes until I have to leave for the team presentations. I’m on a tight schedule so I’m sat here in my cycling kit ready to go!
I’ve got my standard trusty set up with me, my Aeropress and my V60. Also we’re very fortunate to have a Rocket espresso machine and an Mazzer grinder in the kitchen truck for this race so we’ve got a good brew set up here. We’re covered on both bases, for coffee.
Out of the three of you at 5 Rings – who drinks the most coffee?
I think Phil drinks the most out of the three of us, I’d say….No…maybe me and Phil….Actually maybe just me! Phil is actually very sensible, he won’t push his limits on coffee.
And who makes the worst coffee and should perhaps stick to racing?
Phil makes the best coffee, Callum makes the worst coffee and I’m middle ground. After having our pop-up in Edinburgh, where we all worked there for a couple of weekends… Phil probably hasn’t improved; he stayed the same. Callum definitely improved since he was on the tools and I got a bit better but I’d say across the board we’re all pretty decent.
Credit: Getty Images
Now – something for the bike fans
Rim of disc brakes?
I’d have to say rim because I’ve never raced disc brakes before.
The f10, f12 or new Dogma F?
I love the f12 it’s one of my favourite bikes, I have to say.
What training do you do off the bike?
In my off season, I do a lot of running and during the season I do a lot of gym work as well.
Weights – yes or no?
Yes, for sure, It’s a really key part of my training and something that is shied away from by too many cyclists because they think they’re going to put muscle mass on. However, I think it’s becoming more apparent how important it is in modern day cycling.
The biggest change you’ve seen in cycling in the past ten years
In the last few years; if I’m honest its been that in the peloton the overall level is really high, there’s no easy races. From the first race of the year everyone is in really good shape. Maybe now for the same numbers and the power you were outputting a few years ago just to be in a group of 40-50 guys on a hilly day, now there’ll be 70-80 guys. The overall level of the peloton is really high and really professional.
Shimano, Lightweight or Princeton
Shimano. I’m a big fan of the C60s I raced with them all year round. Whether it’s flat, hilly, windy, whatever – they’re always good.
Fasted riding yay or nay?
Yes, if it’s done in the right way. In the team we don’t use it as a tool to try and lose weight: Instead, it’s trying to make your body more efficient and burning fat and saving your glycogen. It’s not what everyone thinks it’s for: losing weight, which can be an added gain but if done in the right way it can be really good.
Nutrition on the bike – gels or food or other..?
Normally in a race I’ll start with solids like bars, rice cakes or little paninis. As we get towards the end of the race and everything’s getting a bit frantic I’ll switch to gels and carb-based drinks with up to 80g of carbs in a bottle.
Bike fit yes or no?
I think bike fits are really good. I would always take them with a pinch of salt, though. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t need to change too much. And I always think small changes are better than drastic ones.
What’s the hardest climb you’ve ever done?
I’d have to say the Struggle. I rode it one year in the tour of Britain, straight after the Olympics in 2016 and I was very unfit. I suffered up there, big time. It was the hardest one I’ve done.
What did you like most about the Grenadier 4x4?
Credit: Getty Images
I think it’s just such a cool car! I’m a big fan of Defenders and cars of that vein already so what INEOS have created with the Grenadier is just such a dream car…Hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on one!
What’s your favourite thing to find in a musette mid-race
Probably a cheeky can of coke is always nice. It’s always refreshing, always hits the spot. That would be my go-to.