EF Education-Nippo have announced their newest signing for the 2022 season with Ukrainian Mark Padun joining from Bahrain Victorious.
Padun had a stand-out season in 2021, most notably taking two mountain stages back-to-back at the Critérium du Dauphiné as well as finishing third overall at the Vuelta a Burgos.
But it hasn't all be smooth for the climber from Donetsk as he explained in EF Education-Nippo's transfer announcement.
Padun was an adventurous young man and was always wanting to do new things, his cycling journey began when a coach came to his school to offer free bikes to the students.
"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 went to a sports-focused boarding school once he reached the age of secondary education: "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."
In 2014 Padun returned home after graduating but hostilities between Ukraine and Russia were becoming dangerous forcing his parents to act.
"Thanks to my parents, I hardly saw any of the war," he continued.
"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 was sent to a small town outside of the capital Kyiv to live with his aunt and uncle as his parents and brother stayed in Donetsk unable to leave. Fortunately, his family did manage to move and now live in Seattle.
"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."
The 25-year-old believes he can go on to compete in the Grand Tours with the aim to go for stage wins in the next couple of seasons.
EF Education-Nippo CEO Jonathan Vaughters said that he has had Padun on his radar for some time, adding: "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."
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