The most important race of the season and another excellent performance by Tanja Žakelj! She was 9th on the World Champs in Leogang – a well deserved place after an aggressive racing in all five and a half laps.
“Every year I want to have my best race on the World Championships and most of the time I’m successful at this. 2021 season is super short, but I kind of suspected that I will get into the racing mode on the races in Nové Mesto na Morave and be on the peak at the champs. I’s thinking about the today’s race for the whole season,” said Tanja right after the race, super happy with 9th place finish.
Tanja is a stable of the Slovenian national MTB team and again proved her worth in Leogang. She had a great lap on team relay on Wednesday and even better day on the XCO race on Saturday. Conditions on the track were the best in the whole week, but still very muddy and slippery. Tanja had her share of problems – just like every other rider out there – and hit the ground twice, but that didn’t distract her from her constant and controlled ride.
New track in Leogang is kind of an old-school track and has a profile that suits Tanja, without long straights and constant accelerations, with long climbs. “At home I ride a lot of terrain like this, for me it’s easier to keep high pace on profile like this. It turned out that I’s also right about my tactics as I had a controlled start, but still fast enough to pass other riders right away,” said Tanja and added: “But I was also very brave on the downhill sections. I’s very relaxed at first and only got a little bit more ‘stiff’ after the crash and maybe lost some time, but I think all of them made mistakes. I just kept riding at my pace and even gain two more places in the last lap.”
Conditions were what they were, they were the same for everyone. Tanja gained places thanks to constant riding – her first four lap times were all just above or under 17 minutes, while her last lap was even 15 seconds better. “I was advancing because other were losing strength. I’m specific type of rider that likes track with steady pace, I’m not good at constant acceleration. More explosive riders likely used too much energy in the first half and were suffering in the second part of the race,” said Tanja.
Track in Leogang is also suited for hardtail bikes, which was another advantage for Tanja. Team mechanics prepared the bike for muddy conditions, so she didn’t get as much mud on her bike as some others.
9th place on the race of the season is of course great result, Tanja was also happy with it: “I wanted to get a top-ten result, this is only better.”
Tanja will now head to Switzerland for the European Champs, but for now she can relax a little bit and enjoy the last day of the champs. “The Championships are not over jet, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for our downhill boys tomorrow. But for all of us in the XC world this is it for Leogang. I like it here, I always like when we get a new & different venue. I had a great team support here and everything that I could ask for, so I could focus on what I needed to do and the result is here!”
Rainbow jersey went to Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. Photos by Grega Stopar