Donna Vekic suffers mid-air fright ahead of Guadalajara victory
Donna Vekic is a well-known figure in the cycling world, but her most amazing triumph was her own: winning the Tour of Poland in 2007.
As a child growing up in the small town of Mielec in western Poland, she loved travelling — and cycling.
She was at the age of 13 when she joined her first road race, where she had to beat an all-girls team from her local school.
“I lost but in the long run it taught me, we should try,” she says.
She had a few close calls, including one when she fell off her bike near her home in Mielec in December 1999. That fall nearly killed her and left her needing an operation for a hernia she’d injured at the time.
Vekic recalls the accident as “humbling”, telling us she felt “like a little girl” at the time.
But she kept riding and eventually she joined her school’s team. “I wanted to experience the full gamut of cycling,” she says.
At the time, her family was supporting her efforts to become a professional.
“The other team didn’t send me to races. They thought that I was so slow they wouldn’t be able to keep up with me,” she says.
After a few years spent in the amateur ranks, she was approached for racing by a Polish team called “Mieszkaj”, which she joined in her 20s riding a Cannondale Pro Cycling team, where she was mentored by the late Peter Sagan.
“I had to learn to ride on my own. It was the beginning of the end for me,” she says.
“It was hard to get up in the morning, but the more I trained, the easier it got. I have to say that, when I arrived in Europe, the support was great. I had a lot of support from people in Poland and the other sponsors.”
During her time in the peloton, she was named a Top 30 cyclist in the world by Cycling