With so many tales of broken promises, teams folding and disillusioned young men heading home to Blighty from Europe, it’s good to tell a story where it all comes together and there’s a podium involved. Paul Double has been on our radar for a while, first as a ‘Zappi Man,’ a CTT Hill Climb medallist, riding for one of Italy’s top u23 teams – the mighty Colpack Ballan – then last year back as a ‘Zappi Man.’
This year he’s with the nattily named Mg.k Vis VPM Italian continental team and enjoying a run of good form culminating in second place in the Giro di Romagna in Italy behind talented young Spaniard Juan Ayuso from the legendary, aforementioned Colpack Ballan squad, Italy’s top u23 squadra.
The 18 year-old Spaniard has already won the highly rated Italian u23 Classics the Trofeo Piva and Giro del Belvedere this season and from August 1st joins World Tour UAE Team Emirates on a – wait for it – FIVE year deal.
In other words, it was no ‘second string’ rider who beat Mr. Double to the top step of the Giro di Romagna podium.
We caught up with Paul soon after his best result of the year.
Congratulations, Paul – tell us about the race please.
“It was over four stages, I ended up second to Ayuso on final GC, he’s a bit ‘special,’ so perhaps I had conceded to him before the race was finished – and I was still tired after the Tour of Valencia.
“The first stage was a sprint stage but the finale was steeper than I had anticipated and I lost a little bit of time.
“The second stage was initially flat but had two big 20 minute climbs in the second half, my team took me perfectly into the first one with a bit of a ‘kicker’ at the end of the second one.
“The third stage was hard all day, up and down with a 13 minute climb to the finish, I tried hard to shift Ayuso but couldn’t, it was a horrible slog to the line, up a steep ramp.
“The last stage was a sprint stage and I stuck to the guy who was third overall but the road narrowed, it split and I had to chase back, that was a bit stressful!”
Colpack strikes again?
“As I said, Ayuso is a bit special, he goes to UAE on a five year deal from August 1st.
“Colpack were strong but my team level-pegged them, we were racing them for the win.”
Tell us about you team’s name?
“Mg.k Vis is a manufacturer of vitamins and supplements; vitamin C, magnesium, the kind of stuff you find in a health food store.
“Whilst VPM is a specialized petrochemical production company – lubricants, garden and farm products, car cleaning materials and the like.”
What’s the team like?
“It’s good, everyone is so helpful; we have a soigneur and mechanic so it’s a proper set up.
“The ethos is closer to Zappi’s than Colpack’s – on Colpack it’s all about winning whilst with Zappi and this team it’s much more about people with a passion for the sport getting involved and helping riders develop.
“That said I’m here to win bike races!”
You’re on Olmo bikes, a famous name and they look smart.
“Yes, they’re nice – but I have to tell you that I’m one of those people who just gets on the bike and rides it, I’m not an equipment fanatic.”
“I stay in a property belonging to one of our sponsors with my Kiwi team mate, Paul Wright – it’s nice to have someone who speaks the same language as me as a house mate.
“The only thing is that it means I’m not speaking Italian as much as I could albeit my grasp of the language isn’t bad now.”
Are there still as many East Europeans racing u23 on the Italian scene?
“The Russian National team comes down to race here, as do Gazprom but we’re seeing more and more Scandinavian riders choosing to stay and race in Italy.”
You’ve stepped up a level this year; a top 10 on a Coppi e Bartali stage, a solid Valencia and now a podium in Romagna – what’s that down to?
“It’s not been an easy ride to get to where I am…
“I think I’ve always been strong but my skills are better now; my descending was poor when I was with Colpack – my confidence had been damaged by a crash – but it’s much improved now and I’m positioning much better in the peloton.”
Your year on Colpack?
“As I said earlier, it’s all about winning with them so perhaps it wasn’t the best platform for me?
“It was a tough year for me with circumstances – including crashes – playing against me.
“The team focused on winning and perhaps didn’t find the time to nurture me like Flavio did?
“And whilst I’m a team player, I’m not here to make up the numbers, as I said earlier too, I want to win races!”
How is the Covid situation there?
“In our team and race ‘bubbles,’ apart from the regular tests you wouldn’t really know it’s going on.”
What about the dreaded 90 days out of 180 EU residence restriction – how does it affect you?
“I’m all good on that front, I have a visa but if I can have a little moan;
“British Cycling won’t grant me an ‘elite athlete travel exemption’ because I’m not earning enough money – despite the fact that I’m riding races like Coppi e Bartali and Valencia against the best in the world.”
How’s the programme looking?
“We have one day races in May then June and July are more about stage races at UCI 2.2 level in Italy and across Europe.”
I hadn’t realised but our VeloVeritas friend, Terry Lewis Batsford tells us that you have cycling in the blood?
“Yes, my dad, Len Double was a rider back in the 70’s – he was never what you’d call a ‘star’ but was pretty solid, old school.
“One of his claims to fame is that he beat Alf Engers to win a 25 mile time trial!
“He never pushed me into cycling, as a youngster five-a-side soccer was my thing but one night he suggested I ride a time trial and it all stemmed from there.
“Initially it was more of a hobby than a passion but then I got involved with Zappi and here I am.
“I’m on the phone to my dad all the time, he’s very supportive.”
Thanks to Paul for his time with this interview – it’s good to see a young man successfully climbing the ladder against some very tough opposition in what is cycling Heartland.