What a way to start the World Cup season! Series kicked off on the legendary Maribor venue, which hosted so many spectacular races in the past. With team being based in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, and Unior being based in nearby Zreče, for us, this is our home race, and a home race is always special.
And last day of racing proved to be the most special of them all, with Dakotah Norton taking 10th place and Jure Žabjek finishing in 20th. Looking at the overall standings feels even better, with Dak in 10th and Jure in 14th – thanks to a fantastic 8th place in the qualies.
It doesn’t happen often that we have back-to-back races on the same venue, but this is exactly what happened with iXS EDC & World Cup combo in Maribor. The first race was the toughest to date in the series, yet it was just a warm up for the weekend and chance to see the world’s best riders. But unlike the first weekend, the weather was much more unstable and it was only a matter of time before we got rained on.
As the guys already knew the track, Thursday and Friday were more about fine-tuning the bikes and adjusting our lines on the track. Finding the right setting on the Wilsons was easy. However, the selection of the tires proved to be a little bit trickier – especially with the threat of unstable weather conditions. Still, the week was quite calm all the way until Saturday finals. That’s when the real drama began. Heavy rain started moments before the elite men runs, which made parts of the track super slippery. This, of course, means carnage. Among our three riders, Dak had the worst conditions and had to be very smart about his run. He qualified with 34th time, which doesn’t give you bragging rights, but gets you to the finals.
When the rain stopped, the track got faster again and some riders registered very fast times. Kirk unfortunately wasn’t among them – he crashed at the very top and hit his head hard, which forced him to quit. Luckily, he’s not injured and will be back on his DH bike soon. For Jure, it went much better as he showed great speed and brave selection of lines, which earned him 8th place! His best ever in the qualies!
And Then Came Sunday
The big and first decisive day of the year was upon us. The fans started gathering on the mountain, chainsaws were roaring in the woods and you could feel the tension in the team area. This is the racing atmosphere we love. And for us, it was just about two men. Dakotah Norton was first to go. He was solid and rode with confidence. On the big screen, it almost looked too smooth. His splits were great, but in reality, he was on the edge the whole time. When he crossed the finish line with 3:01.890, we knew this would be a good result. But with 30+ people still on the top of the mountain, we realistically hoped for a top 10. Among them was also Jure Žabjek, our second favourite, and number one favourite of the thousands strong Slovenian fans! The mountain went crazy as he went down the course, but unfortunately the times were not as good as a day before. Jure made several small mistakes, but still came down with a respectable time of 3:04.242, which was enough for 20th place in the end.
“Never before did I start the World Cup season with a top-20 result, which is why I’m very happy. The atmosphere on the track was amazing, especially on the Rock and Roll section. It’s unbelievable that I used to watch these guys as a kid from behind the tape, and now I’m here on the same mountain competing with them.” – Jure Žabjek
“Weather wasn’t on our side this weekend. I knew I was on pace in practice, and it felt like I was riding well. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t go our way in qualifying and all I could do was get the bike to the bottom. The track came around on race day and it was great for me. I couldn’t ask for a better race course and better conditions for me to show speed.” – Dakotah Norton
Dak used much more “juicier” words to describe how he felt about the weather on Saturday, and you can see that and much more in the daily video we did and are available here.
If you would like to hear more from the guys, listen to them here (Dak & Kirk in English, Jure in Slovenian):
What more to say about Maribor? It’s great to be back after nine years and it’s great to see our boys going fast. Dak & Jure now already have results to prove it, Kirk will be there soon for sure!
See you in Fort William!
10th Dakotah Norton, +3.051
20th Jure Žabjek, +5.403
World Cup overall standing:
10th Dakotah Norton, 75 points
14th Jure Žabjek, 58 point
Photos by Klemen Humar & Dave Trumpore
GALLERY BY DAVE TRUMPORE
GALLERY BY KLEMEN HUMAR