Mark Donovan completes first Tour de France weeks after family tragedy
Young rider heads to Paris after losing his mother just before race start
Mark Donovan (Team DSM) will ride into Paris on Sunday evening with mixed emotions. The 22-year-old will reach the end of his first Tour de France with much to look back on after a debutant performance that saw him form part of several breaks and work for his team but he will also have his thoughts elsewhere after informing the media that his mother sadly passed away just a few weeks ahead of the race.
In a short but touching interview with ITV, conducted after Saturday’s individual time trial, the British rider told reporters the sad news and said that he would be finishing the Tour for his late mother.
The interviewer on the scene probably spoke for all of the press corps and the millions of fans who tune into the Tour de France when he said that she would have been extremely proud of her son’s achievements.
“I haven’t really said this to anyone but it’s been a bit of a tough three weeks for me,” he told ITV’s Daniel Friebe.
“Not because of the racing but because I had some bad family news before I came here. My mum passed away just a month before coming here so I was thinking about that quite a lot.
“It’s nice to feel like I’ll be finishing it for her. It’s been quite emotional really.”
Donovan came into the sport via running and quickly established himself as promising talent. He rode for the Zappi’s junior team and then graduated to Bradley Wiggins's squad where he raced between 2018 and 2019. A full-time contract at Sunweb – now Team DSM – soon followed and he made his Grand Tour debut in last year’s Vuelta a Espana.
He finished in the top-five in two stages and since then has cemented his position as a reliable and consistent performer on the team throughout this year. He finished 14th on the stage to Andorra and will ride into Paris in 45th place overall.
“I’m looking forward to rolling into Paris. It’s going to be a fast and furious stage tomorrow but it’s something to enjoy and soak up. It’s nice to feel like I’m 99 per cent of the way there. It always looks like it’s a bit of a parade but it’s always flat out racing at the end,” he added.
In terms of his future ambitions, Donovan sees himself as an all-rounder but he is keen to test himself as a stage racer. Back in December, he told Cyclingnews that he would like to develop in one-week stage races over the next few seasons.
"I’m keen not to write off other types of races, especially over the first few years. It would be nice to try as many different races as possible. Obviously, I’m not going to win Paris-Roubaix or anything, but the Ardennes, the week-long races, they’re ones that I’d like to look at," he said at the time.
"But for the first few years, it would be nice to not stress so much about GC ambitions. Down the line though, I think that’s where I’m heading."
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
By Jackie Tyson