Time on his side as Mason Hollyman aims to pedal away on Grand Tours

Rising star: Mason Hollyman during the 2018 UCI World Cycling Championships Under-23 race in Innsbruck.  Picture: Bruce RollinsonRising star: Mason Hollyman during the 2018 UCI World Cycling Championships Under-23 race in Innsbruck.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Rising star: Mason Hollyman during the 2018 UCI World Cycling Championships Under-23 race in Innsbruck. Picture: Bruce Rollinson | YPN/Johnston Press
A typical ride for Mason Hollyman takes him out of his front door in Emley, towards the Peak District via the Strines, Holme Moss, Snake Pass and Mam Tor.
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“I can do it as a loop and it usually takes me about four hours,” says the 19-year-old of a ride that would be the envy of many a cyclist.

Hollyman enjoys the route, naturally, but as he embarks on it nowadays he does so with an inescapable feeling of what should have been.

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In tandem: Yorkshire's Great Britain Junior men's team riders Sam Watson and Mason Hollyman at the start in Kufstein in 2018.In tandem: Yorkshire's Great Britain Junior men's team riders Sam Watson and Mason Hollyman at the start in Kufstein in 2018.
In tandem: Yorkshire's Great Britain Junior men's team riders Sam Watson and Mason Hollyman at the start in Kufstein in 2018. | YPN/Johnston Press

For ordinarily at this time of year, Hollyman would be in Italy, contesting the most challenging races on the Under-23s calendar, learning the culture and maturing as an individual.

He is one of the bright young things of British cycling, whose season – like all of his peers – has stalled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cycling was one of the first sports to shut down in early March, largely because Italy, where Hollyman is based and where many of the bigger races are in the Spring, was the first and worst-hit countries by the Covid-19 outbreak.

“I was meant to be out in Italy with my team, but plans have obviously changed slightly,” he admits.

Moving up: Remco Evenepoel.Moving up: Remco Evenepoel.
Moving up: Remco Evenepoel. | JPIMedia

“My main aim this year was the Baby Giro (nine-day race).

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“Right now, I’m just holding out hope that it goes ahead, it’s one of the biggest Under-23 races of the calendar so, hopefully, they prioritise rearranging it.”

Not that Hollyman is worrying; he knows that sport takes a backseat as global health takes priority.

For the young Yorkshireman has time on his side, and the focus and drive to ensure he maximises that time.

Cycling for him has been more than just a hobby since he first raced competitively at the age of eight.

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He started out in football, like most young boys do, but quickly got the cycling bug.

“My dad had been a local time-trialler and club rider and I got into cycling from there,” he explains.

“Once I did, football quickly went on the backburner and I’ve always been about cycling ever since.

“I always wanted to be a pro rider and once I got into the junior programmes within British Cycling there was no going 
back.”

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Focus is one of the strengths Hollyman points to, and it is obvious his single-minded obsession is taking him places.

He went to college to study A-levels but as he puts it: “even then, I knew once it was over it was all about cycling.”

He made a strong impression at junior level, earning a place in the Great Britain team for the junior road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck in 2018.

He finished 20th, one of many positive results that year which earned him a contract with Zappi Racing, a UK team based out in Italy, competing at Under-23s level.

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In 2019, his first year at that standard, he finished 20th at the nine-day Baby Giro – one of the bigger races despite the unflattering name of the race – and also 12th in another one-day race.

“If you’re racing as an Under-23s rider there’s actually no better place than in Italy,” he says, fondly.

“The Italian roads are incredible and there’s a lot of scouts at these races. One or two good results and it can really springboard your career.

“And when you look at the results from five or six years ago, some of the names in the top 10 give you a real incentive as to what you can go on to achieve at this level and beyond.

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“I was happy with how things went in my first year. It’s a big gap to bridge, you go from junior racing against guys up to four years older than you, so it was really pleasing.”

There was also a huge cultural change to adapt to.

Most 18-year-olds either have to acclimate to university life in a new city, or life on the professional ladder.

Hollyman had to do it another county, but he wasn’t alone.

“Was it daunting? A little bit, but I always enjoy a challenge,” he says.

“If the worst had come to the worst and I’d not enjoyed it, or not settled in, then it’s only eight months of my life.

“Thankfully, I’ve really enjoyed it.

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“Although it’s a different country, the routine is the same; eat sleep, train, race.

“I didn’t really see it as being any different to being at home, mainly because most of the riders on the team are from the UK and we live together in the same house.

“We had a few Italian lessons, but not many. Hopefully, I can pick up a few more.

“Once I put my head down and focus on something, I really go at it.”

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Which is why Hollyman is a name to watch. He may not have adapted to the step up as quickly as Remco Evenepoel, the Belgian wunderkind who was the junior road race winner that day Hollyman finished 20th in Innsbruck and is now making riders take note in the senior ranks, but he is certainly on the right path.

He is certainly ambitious enough.

“Long-term the plan is to make cycling my living, to be a professional road racer,” continues Hollyman.

“The road is the way forward for me. I’ve done track, mainly in the winter to build my speed up.

“I’m more of a punchy climber, but I don’t mind the long climbs.

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“Grand Tours are the dream. I do find the Ardennes Classics pretty exciting though as well, but if you’re a good Ardennes rider then usually you’re a good Grand Tour rider.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing how I develop over the next few years.”

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