HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
CYCLING WEEKLY|September 16, 2021
Mason Hollyman is having a breakthrough year – Vern Pitt finds out where he’s come from and where he’s going
Vern Pitt

Where are winners made? In the womb? In school? On an altitude camp styled as an Italian remake of The Shining?

In the case of hotshot young British climber Mason Hollyman it could well be the latter. “Six of us spent three weeks in a couple of camper vans on top of a mountain that the Giro d’Italia had finished on the year before. All there was at the top of this mountain was just one half-abandoned hotel,” says the Yorkshireman recalling his first altitude camp experience in 2019. He then remembers: “Next to the hotel was a prison where Mussolini was imprisoned. It was a bit crazy.”

He was staying atop the Gran Sasso d’Italia, in case you want to book your own stay – CW cannot be held accountable for what a lot of work and no play will do to you there.

Luckily, Hollyman did not descend into seeing ghosts and brutally murdering his Holdsworth-Zappi team-mates and was just last week riding the Tour of Britain in the colours of Israel Start-Up Nation, having been called up from the squad’s academy outfit. At 21, he’s now considered one of British climbing’s brightest young prospects. When CW first meets Hollyman after the race’s second stage, his fresh face is streaked with dirt, giving it the appearance of a chimney sweep in a Disney movie rather than an axe-wielding Jack Torrance.

When we ask him how it has gone, he says: “It’s been a pleasure. For me, it’s really nice to see how these guys work, and just try to learn from them.”

Natural talent

The son of a keen cyclist father, he got into the sport as an eight-year-old riding with his family at the weekends. Before long he was riding with them in France, climbing mountains in the Alps and the Massif Central.

Within a few years he was racing on the junior scene. He began to be coached by ex-pro Dean Downing, who’d been asked to help the promising teenager by Kirklees Cycling Academy manager Darren Stringer. Downing recalls fondly Hollyman’s breakthrough year in 2018 when he won the junior series, including the Monmouthshire Grand Prix.

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