Six days, four races – that was the XCO/XCC World Cup for 2021 season, with all of the races happening in Nové Mesto na Morave. It wasn’t the World Cup as we know it, but the climbs and rock were exactly as we know them – unforgiving. Tanja Žakelj showed a solid performance on both XC races and ended the week in Czech Republic with two 20th finishes.
“Schedule with so many races in such a short period is definitely a new experience for me. Something new, but also very difficult. It was almost like a stage race,” said Tanja on Sunday evening, after finishing her last race of the week. She was 20th on Sunday, just like on the first XCO race on Thursday. Those are solid results in the extremely even field, and a good start ahead of the World Champs that are happening in Leogang this week.
Last race on Sunday was especially brutal. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot made the race were hard for everyone and set the strong pace up in the front and stretch the field. Tanja was close to the front in the start loop, but then felt back and started gaining places in the second half of the race. “I could still advance and accelerate in the start lap, then everything calmed down. I had to ride at my own pace, I wasn’t as fresh as usually on Sunday,” said Tanja.
Tanja’s Sunday race ended with the sprint of three riders for 20th place, something that brings up nice memories. Tanja explains the connection with her first victory on this venue and tactics of the last meters: “During the sprint I thought of 2013 season, this time around I also had a rider from Poland behind me. I again knew that I can’t wait, I’m not as good in a sprint. I kept a high pace throughout the last part of the lap and gain enough gap to take that 20th place on the end.”
Tanja didn’t do as well on the short track, which was kind of expected, as she is much faster on the traditional format of a long endurance racing. She doesn’t lack the power to have a quick start – she showed that on the both XCO races – but the distance and the type or short race just doesn’t fit her.
Final thought of the week? “I’m not bad, there are a lot of riders around me, but we are behind the fastest. This is why I’m not either happy or disappointed with the results. I felt way better on Sunday race and I know I can do much better on a good day. Hopefully that day will come in Leogang,” explained Tanja.
There are no overall standings this year, all of the focus is now on the World Champs in Leogang and European Champs in Switzerland that will follow a week later.
Photos by Grega Stopar