WC Albstadt: Tanja Žakelj just behind top-10

Tanja did it again! This time on the venue that is anything than her favorite and after a start from the third row, something she “earned” with the bad result on the Friday’s short track. On the XCO race it was a different game, she was fantastic from start to the finish of five laps and made it all the way to 11th.

It was difficult weekend for everybody in Albstadt; the rain in the last days made some sections absolutely brutal and the tire choice really complicated (she rode with Aspens on the end). It was not raining on Sunday, but still we saw a lot of crashes and mistakes from all riders. Tanja Žakelj was the fist to admit that her riding wasn’t perfect, but at the same time she was self-confident and determined, so she went for the attack right away. “I must admit there was a little bit of fear in me before the race, the bad result on Friday didn’t help with that either. I didn’t expect a good outcome, but everything turned out great,” said Tanja just after the race. Eleventh place is excellent, with some more power in her legs she could maybe even battle for top-10, but the chase to that point took too much of her strength. On a bad day she could also loose focus due to the start from the third row and conditions on the track, but multiple Slovenian national champion believed in herself! “I know I’m in very solid form and this results only proves it,” said Tanja.

Short track is a new event for the UCI World Cup. The race is held on Friday evening and it gives riders points of the overall standings, but even more important – it determents the start list on Sunday’s main event. “I didn’t do very well on the short track, that is why I had to start from third row today. I didn’t pay much attention to this, I hoped my legs will be stronger today and that I can have a good race. I had to do my best and hold on to the top riders,” said Tanja. On the end she had good time on the bike; Tanja explains: “Today’s race was interesting, especially after I relaxed and got rid of my fears. But at the same time I also made a decision not to ride on the steepest section of the course and go on the chicken-way, one mistake there and I would loose more than I lost riding the longer option.”

In her best seasons in 2013 and 2014, Tanja was twice fourth in Albstadt, after that she didn’t do very well here. She isn’t a fan of this track, simple as that. However that might change after today’s race (and about time, we’ll have World Champs here in 2020), when she was chasing the top-10 riders. “I kept my nerves and my head in the right position, I’ve also manage to clean my derailleur with water from the bottle. I even made a short stop and cleaned mud – I lost 2-3 seconds there, but gain a lot when looking on the race as a whole.”

She will have to do a fast recovery, the next race is already next week, again with the combination of short track and Olympic cross-country.

Tanja is clear about her plans for the next round: “There is nothing to think about as far as short track is concerned, I just hope for more climb on the track and better result. But I look forward to the big race with even more enthusiasm, despite the fact that I now have a pretty high bar as far as the result is concerned. I’ll not think about it, I’ll strive towards progress and I think I can do even better.”

Tanja is now 16th overall.

Jolanda Neff won the race, she was in the race of her own. Next stop is Nove Mesto na Morave – in just couple of days.

Photos by Michele Mondini