Tanja had a good start, she jumped from the second row and was just behind the leaders on the first climb. But her legs were not in the right race mode and she finished the first lap in 15th. By the end of fourth lap she was already 18th… Then the right energy came and she started to battle for the high positions, with some luck she could even get top-10, but had to settle with a very decent 11th. That is also her best result so far in the 2017 World Cup series.
Race venue in Vallnord/Andorra is on two thousand meters, which always brings a lot of questions – and none of them has a very straightforward answer. Tanja decided that she will arrive to Andorra late, she was here on Friday, which left here just one day to try the track and get ready for the race. She knows the track well, and the weather also didn’t had a lot of influence on it. Race conditions were almost perfect, which is not the word to describe first half of Tanja’s race. “I was on the start and I didn’t know if I feel good or not and what to expect. But on the end of the day this is just a race like any other, so I warmed up, went to the start and did my best. This is how I started the race, but the legs definitely weren’t like they should be,” said Tanja after the race. Everything changed after start of fifth lap – Tanja found higher gear and went back up the ladder; she was fighting all the way to the finish line on the end of sixth lap. “Somehow I pushed myself forward and tried to stay calm… then things went much better. I was in company of great racers and that gave me a lot of motivation. I know them and I know what are strengths and weaknesses of each of them, I took this to my advantage and on the end pulled maximum from this race,” said Tanja after she took 11th today in Vallnord.
It’s hard to say if her late arrival did her good or not, even Tanja can’t say that for sure: “There are different theories about the best ways to get ready for a race like this. I decided for late arrival and I can’t claim with 100 % certainty that it was the correct decision, but I know that I had a good set of training sessions back home and I can estimate this decision as the right one.”
Tanja said that she got a boost also thanks to the “company” around her. Catharine Pendrel was already with her in the gondola on the way to the top of the mountain, and then very close for bigger part of the race. Both formed a group with Jolanda Neff and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, but Tanja didn’t got scared and attacked; on the end she crossed the finish line ahead of all these amazing riders.
In the front of the race it wasn’t as exciting. Yana Belomoina got a big lead early in the race and won second time in the row. She also has a nice lead in the overall standings, Tanja Žakelj is now 14th.
On the end of the day we can be happy with how the race ended and Tanja’s performance. She’s now just behind the fastest riders and maybe we’ll see new “best-so-far-in-the-season” already in a week time in Lenzerheide. Tanja has no hard feelings for missing top-10 this time and is full of positive feelings. “I was 11th today, which is better than in Nove Mesto. Everything that is better is good, so I continue my season with optimism and have no regrets whatsoever for finishing just behind the top-10.”
Results on UCI website
Race replay on Red Bull TV
Photos by Klemen Humar, Keith Valentine and Grega Stopar