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Mark Padun praised the decision of the Tour of Poland organizers to make a gesture of solidarity with his home country Ukraine during this year’s race.
The route of Monday’s third stage travels to within two kilometers of the border with Ukraine and finishes just 5km away in Przemyśl.
The slogan of the 2022 Tour de Pologne is also a sign of support, namely “Race for Peace.”
Padun (EF Education-EasyPost) is from Donetsk, close to the border with Russia, and one of the areas which has seen fierce fighting. In recent days it was the subject of an evacuation order by the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
Padun has been under considerable stress this season and said that he appreciates what the Tour de Pologne is doing.
“In the group there are only two Ukrainian riders. It’s me and Andrii Panomar from the Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli team. Sometimes we talk to each other, even though with racing it is not easy.
“The race this year made an effort to pass close to the border with Ukraine. It is a nice gesture by the organizers at a difficult time for my country. Fortunately my family is fine, we speak often with each other.
“When I saw the Ukrainian flag bracelets and the Ukrainian flag on the cover of the road book, I thought it was something fantastic. Honestly, for me it is a moment of nostalgia, both for the support the race shows to the Ukrainian people and for the good times I had in Poland in my youth.”
Sunday’s stage 2 finished in Zamosc, an area Padun said he knows well as he lived there in the past. Indeed he has other links to Poland, including two previous participations in the event.
“It’s a race I always try to participate in,” he said. “Every time I come here it is exciting. Poland is the first country I visited when I came out of Ukraine as a young man. I will always have a special connection with this land.”
Padun is in the first year of a three-year contract with EF Education-EasyPost. He gained the team’s attention last season when he won two stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné and earlier this year won the time trial and finished third overall in the Gran Camiño in Spain.
Since then his performances have been below par, likely due to the stress of the situation back home. He has not competed in more than a month and said his objective in the Tour de Pologne was to see how his body will respond after that period out of competition and to try to honor the team jersey.
“I will certainly experience great emotions day after day,” he said.