World Cup Val di Sole: XCO/XCC Race Report

Val di Sole once again proved to be a lucky place for Tanja Žakelj. She had her best race of the season on the Italian stop of the World Cup and took 8. place! This is her new best result of the season, but also a proof that she can battle with the best on a good day!

The start of the race weekend in Italy wasn’t promising. Tanja finished the rainy and muddy short track race in very modest 28th. That was a race to forget, but luckily not an indicator of what was ahead of us later in the weekend – on the “main” race. Slovenian national champion instead showed her best racing performance and was of course happy with the great result: “Race in Val di Sole was what I want for a race to be! I had a great day. I had a good start – with full bag of positive feelings – and right away everything went the way I could only wish for. I have seen gaps and I was advancing for the whole race. I still felt strong after the start lap, which was really good and I knew that I can race all the way to the end, not just battle for the positions. It was a real race, I had right legs – I was right there or I was passing on the climbs. I was getting my breath on the descents and didn’t lose places. This is how I got better and better with each of the laps and I finished the race full with smile on my face. This was the race of the season so far!”

Tanja was around 20th place in the first part of the race, she was losing about a minute to the leader in the first and second lap. There is no single reason for this, but more a mix of factors like the start position, traffic in the first meters of the race and strong attacks of the other racers. Tanja didn’t let for anything to bother her and was doing her own race on the high pace. In the last three laps she came all the way to top-10 and then to final 8th place. Race analysis show that she was only losing 20 seconds per lap in the last three loops, and even set 5th fastest time in the last lap. All of this was happening on the challenging course with four climbs per lap, and they seemed even steeper in the summer heat.

“I wasn’t thinking about the result during the race, I was even in 20th place in the beginning and that didn’t bother me. It wasn’t important where in the race am I, I just felt good and I knew I had to race all the way to the end,” said Tanja Žakelj. But it’s also true that good position gave her boost to make it to final position; Tanja explains: “I got wings when I saw that I can make it to top-10… and I was still strong and I was still passing others. This is definitely my new benchmark for the season, my best result so far in 2019. I’ll continue to work with the same pace and hopefully I can do even better. There are still two World Cup rounds and the World Champs ahead of me, and I hope for more days like this.”

Tanja improved her overall standings with this result and is now sitting in 21st, with the same number of points as Olympic champ Jenny Rissveds, and is not far behind top-20. Thanks to today’s race the venue in Val di Sole got back on her “good venue” list. Tanja Žakelj: “No matter how I look at my racing history in Val di Sole I consider it as a venue where I took some very good results, but also some not so good. Of course two results stand out, victory on the junior World Champs and victory on the World Cup race – you just can’t do better than that. I also had to face some disappointments here, but they are now forgotten and I’ll again have nice memories of Val di Sole.”

Pauline Ferrand Prevot won the race in Val di Sole. Next stop is Lenzerheide… see you there in just couple of days.

Photos by Klemen Humar & Grega Stopar