‘Young Brits doing the biz?’
We spoke recently to u23 Gent-Wevelgem winner, Sam Watson and adding to the list is a man we first spoke to last year who’s already produced two excellent rides in 2022.
Mason Hollyman is that soldier, the 20 years-old ex-‘Zappi Man’ from Huddersfield riding for Israel Cycling Academy continental team took fourth in the Italian u23 classic Trofeo Piva and fifth in the extremely tough u23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
He’s also been riding at the highest level with the Israel – Premier Tech World Tour team in races like the Coppi e Bartali where the big teams joust with gung-ho ProTeams desperate for recognition.
We started off by asking Mason about a result from 2021 – his win in Stage Five of the Volta a Portugal, an event known for uncontrolled and frantic racing.
“That’s for sure the biggest win of my short career, it’s a hard race with the Portuguese continental teams very strong and giving the likes of Movistar and the ProTeams a hard time.
“That day was like a day in the Peak District of England with a number of five minute climbs then a 20 minute climb at the end, it reminded me of a Baby Giro stage.
“I ended up solo on the last climb and rode it like a time trial, gauging my effort with the group closing fast, I ended up winning by 35 seconds from Portuguese rider, Ricardo Mestre who’s a previous winner of the Volta.
“Portugal was hard but it prepared me well for racing at a higher level.”
Then you rode the Tour of Britain with the Israel World Tour team?
“After my ride in Portugal I was given that opportunity and rode the Tour Poitou Charentes, Tour of Britain and Tour of Sicily with the World Tour team.”
Fourth in the Tour of Britain team time trial, that must have been fun?
“The last team time trial I’d ridden was back when I was a junior and I was very nervous before the ride, not wanting to let the team down.
“We had Michael Woods and Dan Martin going for GC [Woods would finish an eventual fifth and Martin seventh on GC, ed.] and strong guys like Alex Dowsett and Andre Greipel so I knew it would be hard!”
You rode the prestigious Italian semi-classics, Tre Valli Varesine and Coppa Agostoni at the end of the season, how did they go?
“I did 30 race days in the final two months of last season so by the time those races came round I was running out of steam a little bit.
“But I did my domestique duties and Alessandro De Marchi won the Tre Valli so it was a good day for the team.”
Coppi e Bartali with the World Tour team to start this year.
“To start with I was a wee bit ‘off it,’ it was my first race back and my breathing wasn’t good but I felt much better come the last two stages.
“The percorso in that race is super-technical, small roads and no ‘sprint days.’”
Then fourth in the Trofeo Piva, any ‘what ifs?’
“I made one mistake and it cost me.
“On the third to last climb I got my positioning wrong and was swamped going into what was a very narrow road.
“A group got away and after the climb I bridged across 40 seconds , I had good condition but the energy I used bridging was the energy I should have used for a race winning move…”
[The race was won by Italian ProTeam rider, Marin Marcellusi from Bardiani CSF Faizane, ed.]
And fifth at Liege.
“The first 80 K were easy then we hit the first three hills, which come in rapid succession, on the second one the Groupama FDJ guys lit it up. [FDJ would run out eventual winners with ‘new sensation’ Romain Gregoire who went on to win another two Italian u23 classics over the next three days, ed.]
“On La Redoute I went full gas, closed to the break and was away with five others, I thought that was ‘the’ move but we got caught.
“The team set me up for the sprint, I was always going to have my work cut out but went early and gave it a go rather than just wait – I was happy with my result.”
Would you like to be racing more?
“No, I’m happy with my programme, I raced so much at the end of last year, I’m enjoying training from my base in Girona, selecting the races I want to do well in rather than riding everything that’s going.
“The constant travel and racing takes it’s toll.”
Are you still with Dean Downing coaching?
“Dean still plays a mentoring role but I’m coached ‘in house’ now by our assistant sports director, ex-pro Ruben Plaza who was a Vuelta and Tour de France stage winner.”
You said you’re still in Girona?
“Yes, I’m in my second year there and enjoying it; there are a few more young Anglo guys here now – Ben Healey who’s with EF and Tom Gloag who’s with Trinity, for instance and there are lots of Aussies too, so there’s always a good group to train with.
“That said, if I’m doing specific work I prefer to do that on my own.”
And the best coffee in Girona?
“My favourite easy/recovery day is a run to Lake Banyoles and back, there are some great coffee shops there.”
What’s next on the agenda?
“I have a two weeks altitude training camp in the Sierra Nevada before riding the five stage Alpes Isere Tour at the end of May as preparation for the Baby Giro which starts on June 11th – that’s my big goal for the year but it’ll be a hard race.
“Groupama FDJ continental for instance have a really strong squad with Gregoire and Lenny Martinez who was 14th in the recent Tour of the Alps riding for the FDJ World Tour squad.”
Season 2022 will be a success if?
“I want to show consistency, these last years I’ve tended to blow hot and cold but I want to be ‘there’ all through Alpes Isere and the Baby Giro.”
VeloVeritas will be keeping our usual beady eye on the results of both races and wish Mason well for them.