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Mark Donovan – on winning the Aubel-Thimister-La Gleize stage race

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Here at VeloVeritas we try to keep abreast of what’s going on across in Europe, one result which caught our recently eye was young Mark Donovan winning the Aubel-Thimister-La Gleize junior stage race in Belgium.

Never an easy thing to do against all those would-be GVA’s.

Best ‘have a word.’

Tell us about Aubel-Thimister-La Gleize and how you won it please, Mark.

“It’s a UCI 2.1 stage race, probably one of the hardest junior stage races in the world.

“On the Stage One I managed to get into break which formed on two hard finish laps of about 10KM each, I ended up 11th which I was pleased with, mainly because I didn’t lose any time.

“I then got into yellow after Zappi won the TTT, after a great performance by everyone in the team.

“In the final two road stages my strategy was best described as ‘attack is the best form of defence,’ I managed to get in the break on both days, which meant others weren’t just looking at me to chase everything down.

“I ended up winning by 37 seconds to Tom Pidcock who was also in Zappi.”

Mark Donovan
Mark Donovan. Photo©Andre Schoonbroodt

And you won the mountains prize in the SPIE International too?

“Yes it was my first UCI stage race so I didn’t really know what to expect, the first two stages were very flat so didn’t suit me.

“And then after losing too much time on the TT for my GC hopes I got in the break on the final day and managed to win most of the KOM points.”

Where are you from in the UK and how did you get into cycling?

“I’m from the Lake District.

“I was originally a runner, but when I was about 14 I got an injury in my heels, so I switched sports to cycling, as it isn’t weight-bearing.”

You were 2016 British Junior Cyclo-cross champion, is that a discipline you’ll be going back to come the winter?

“Unfortunately, even though I would love to do some ‘cross this year, I probably won’t be able to; firstly I’m having a shoulder operation in October, as a few years ago I dislocated my shoulder going off a MTB jump on my ‘cross bike.

“I also need to focus on getting some good winter base miles in for the road season, as it’s a big step up to U23 next year.”

How would you describe yourself as a rider?

“Definitely a climber.

“I also tend to do better when the racing is really hard, and people can’t just hide in the peloton.”

You’re a Zappi’s man – tell us about the team and how you came to be in it.

“It’s a Junior team based in Oxford, set up by Flavio Zappi, an ex-Italian Pro.

“With Paul Quarterman and Jerrod Hartley as DS’s.

“I was asked by Jerrod Hartley if I was interested in joining the team of after the Junior Tour of the Basque country, when I was a first year Junior.”

Mark Donovan
Mark Donovan. Photo©Andre Schoonbroodt

I thought Zappi were more into the Italian scene than Belgium?

“The Zappi U23 Team is based out in Italy, but the Junior Team is based in the UK, and then we travel out to Europe throughout the season for races, in Belgium, France, Spain and Italy.

“So as a junior team it probably has the best Calendar out of any British Team.”

Do you have a coach – what’s the philosophy?

“Yes I have coach, I actually only got a coach as a second year Junior.

“As I always just wanted to have fun, and never used to take it too seriously.

“But this year has been great and I have learned lots, and I will like I have come on a lot as a rider.”

You’re at a race in France right now (12th August) where, how did it go?

“Yes I was racing in the Ronde Des Vallees; it was another UCI stage race – it was slightly less suited to me as it was less hilly.

“I ended up fifth on GC with a second on stage 1.

“So I was pleased with the result.”

Where’s your favourite place to race and why?

“Probably the Basque country in northern Spain; as the races are always very hilly, and you normally don’t get as much negative racing.”

How do you map your race programme out?

“It was all down to Paul Q and Jerrod H, they did a great job of getting the team into some really good races.

“I then looked at the ones I could and couldn’t do and told them, I tried to have a few specific times in the season where I was on form, as it is quite a long season, starting in February and finishing in September so you can’t expect to be flying all year round.”

Mark Donovan
Mark Donovan. Photo©Andre Schoonbroodt

Are you on any of the GB ‘plans’?

“No, I’ve never had anything to do with the GB academy – mainly because I haven’t done a track race in my life!”

What’s the plan for 2018?

“Get into as good an U23 team as possible, and hopefully be based out on the continent somewhere.”

And if you could win just one race?

“I guess winning the world champs wouldn’t be too bad.”

We wish Mark ‘all the best’ for the rest of season 2017 and will be keeping our eyes on his results.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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