Mark Padun joins team

Ukrainian climber looks to build on 2021 success

December 15, 2021

We are proud to announce that Mark Padun is the newest member of our 2022 roster.

While there is no singular path that will get a rider into the WorldTour, Padun’s is certainly a unique one, with uncommon twists and turns.

“Until I started cycling, I was always doing stuff like dancing and painting,” Padun says. “In school we used to train for dancing.” The 25-year-old says his dancing days are now well behind him. “I’ve only danced one time in the last few years. It was on a date,” he laughs. And as for painting? “Like dancing, it’s a skill I’ve forgotten from not practicing,” he jokes.

Growing up in the city of Donetsk, Ukraine, Padun was adventurous and curious. “I was always trying new things,” he says. “When I was young, I was like, ‘Oh I want to do this, I want to do that’ because a lot of my friends were doing things that seemed cool.”

In fact, it was this sense of curiosity that led him to riding as an 11-year-old. “A coach came to my class and told us we could go and try these bicycles for free and I decided I wanted to go. I told my father I was going to try cycling and he said, ‘Ok, for how long?’ because before that it was dancing and there was always something new. I said, ‘No, I want to do cycling for a long time.’ And, well, I guess it’s been a long time now!”

While Padun had fun riding around town with his brother and participating in local races, results didn’t come immediately. “Once I got third place in a race and I thought, ‘Wow, super cool!’”

But he stuck with it and as he hit his teenage years, Padun started to gain attention. “We were always training and racing for our school, then for the city, then for the region. I started doing well in regional races and I was invited to go to a sports school because they saw talent in me,” he says.

Padun attended a sports-focused boarding school for high school. “I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot of things there. When you are 14 and you live with your parents, you are completely dependent on them. Then you live away from them and it’s a big deal. You have to make your own plans. You’re still a child but you are growing up.”

After he graduated in 2014, he returned to his childhood home in Donetsk where he continued racing until the political situation grew too volatile due to hostilities between Ukraine and Russia.

“Thanks to my parents, I hardly saw any of the war. As soon as the army came to Donetsk, they sent me away almost immediately. I saw soldiers for a few days and I understood this was something serious. My parents understood what my dreams and goals were. They understood that to train in an area with a war was a bad idea. I left thinking, ‘Ok, this is for a few weeks and then I’m going to come back.’ And then it turned out I never went back there to live. I cannot say these were easy times.”

Padun’s parents sent him to a small town near the capital Kyiv where his aunt and uncle lived and he was able to continue training and racing. Meanwhile, his parents and younger siblings stayed in Donetsk. “Where could they move to?” he asks. “There were millions of people trying to escape the war.” Eventually, his family was able to move within Ukraine and have now settled in Seattle.

Padun himself has been based in western Europe for the last few years but he still maintains a close relationship with some of the coaches he met while living with his aunt and uncle. “We are always in contact. Even now they are trying to help me by trying to put on a training camp for me. At the same time, I’m trying to explain, ‘No, I’m already pro and I have plenty of camps and it’s the off season.’ I understand though. They try to do their best. It’s touching.”

With such dedication and support behind him, Padun has no trouble staying motivated and has his sights set on the future. “I want to become a rider for Grand Tours. I believe that I can do it because all of the people who have been working with me have told me that I have talent. I understand that I have to improve to meet this goal so I’m still working on this but I believe it is possible,” he says.

"My parents understood what my dreams and goals were. They understood that to train in an area with a war was a bad idea."

Team CEO Jonathan Vaughters also sees Grand Tour success in Padun’s future. “I fully expect him to win his first stage of a Grand Tour in the next couple of years. I have no doubt that he’ll do that. I know he can find the right breakaway in a mountain stage and climb away from everyone else and win stages. I know he can do that in Grand Tours. Whether he can expand on that to win mountain jerseys or contend in general classification, that part we have to find out. But for this year, let’s focus on a couple of stage wins. I’m 100% confident he can do it.”

Building Padun’s consistency will be key for the 2022 season. Vaughters says, “I see him as one of the biggest talents in modern cycling right now. He’s been an extremely inconsistent talent but on his good days, he’s proven that he’s one of the very best climbers in the world. It’s our job to figure out how to get him a few more of those good days and work on the consistency a little bit.”

“He’s been on my radar for a very long time,” Vaughters says. “He’s just an incredibly talented climber. He also has a nose for finding the right breakaway and then he seems quite resistant once he’s in the breakaway. When you’re out there for four, five, six hours in the breakaway, just because you’re a good climber doesn’t mean that you can handle sitting out there in the wind that long. He seems to be good at both. He seems to be able to climb really well and be able to plug along.”

A peek at Padun’s palmarès confirms that he is undoubtedly a strong stage racer. This year he won the final two stages at the Dauphine and placed third overall at the Vuelta a Burgos. “After one week or ten days, I still enjoy racing,” Padun says. “It’s not that I don’t like one day races but I like stage races much better. You can always try to be there battling for a result. I’m not a pure climber. I’m quite a heavy guy but most of my success I obtained by climbing.”

Looking to next season, Padun is thrilled to join EF. “This is the right team for me. When Vaughters spoke to me, I really was quite excited because I have never before heard the management of any team tell me such detailed things of what he believes I can do. It makes me believe. When I had this opportunity to join EF, I was quite happy and I didn’t have to think too long.”

Welcome to the team, Mark. We see great success in store for 2022.

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