We all know how fast everything can change in the professional sport, for better or worse. A week ago Tanja Žakelj was fighting for the top-10 result – on the track in Albstadt, which is far from her favorite – but today in Nové Město everything turned around. Her legs were not “right”, but she was still fighting till the end and took a solid 19th place.
Tanja’s race in Czech Republic was similar like many others in her career – poor start, but then a great battle till the end. She started the race from the third row and finished the start loop in 32nd place. “Start of the race was bad, complete opposite of what I did last week in Germany. On that race the lines were just opening in front of me, here the lines were closing all the time… I found myself in the worst possible place in every situation. I just couldn’t keep up in the beginning of the race, I was actually loosing. I was disappointed after the start loop, but I kept it cool and continued the race in the best possible way,” said Tanja Žakelj after the race.
This was one of the starts that you have to forget right away and Tanja managed to do that. She was soon faster on the track, but at the same time didn’t had a lot of luck with the competitors. She didn’t find the right group, she was either falling behind or was too fast for them… so she rode her own race for most of the time. At the same time she was feeling stronger and was gaining places, in fact her last two laps were almost fast enough for top-ten. But the track in Nově Mesto in very technical, with lots of short & steep climbs and lots of accelerating from the corners, so there was only that much she could do. Tanja was 19th on the end.
“While I was racing I was thinking how nice it would be to get in the top twenty, so in a way I fulfilled one of my goals. When I think about it I have to be happy in a way, I took the most I could out of this race,” explained Tanja. She also said that fans helped her, they were very loud all around the track. And of course the crowds in Czech Republic know Tanja, after all this is where she took her first World Cup victory.
Thanks to short track, the cross-country racing is harder than ever before. It was not enough that tracks became brutal and competition aims for you at every corner, with the addition of the Friday’s race a lot things got complicated and unpredictable. Some riders didn’t start on Friday and saved their strength for the main event, but Tanja doesn’t plan to go that way, despite the fact that she doesn’t shine in the sprint. “I’m in 16th place overall, which means I will start next short track from the second row. I’ll continue to race this discipline, I get some points and also do a great training. The race is very fast, I’m not capable to do training ride like this on my own. And I also don’t think that race has a lot of impact on my performance on Sunday,” said Tanja.
Two women stand out this season, and they were again on top of the game. Annika Langvad won the race, just a second ahead of Jolanda Neff.
Photos by Grega Stopar