We’re back in Australia for the third time in a row, this time for the World Championships in both XCO and DH. Cairns already hosted champs back in the middle of nineties, but it was whole different game back then – they had a big shark mouth on the start of the DH at the time (apparently they have been looking for it, but nobody knows where that thing is).
We’ll get back to downhill tomorrow, after the men’s race, today we focus on elite women cross-country race and our champion Tanja Žakelj. She had a good season of racing in the UCI World Cup, with best result being 7th place in Mont-Sainte-Anne. Today she was aiming for top-10, and that’s what she delivered.
XCO course in Cairns is one of the hardest and most technical of them all, but for us that is good, Tanja likes that. Heat was also never a problem for her. Exactly at noon the sound of a start pistol went off and the race was on. Tanja stayed at the front in the start lap and in contact with the leaders. She was around 15th place at the end of first lap, but things went upwards from there on. Tanja Žakelj explained: “Race was interesting and fast. The track was bone dry, competition was strong, but I felt good from the first moment I went on the course. I conquered all technical parts very fast and was looking forward to the race. I was full of self-confidence on the start line, I also think I had a good start. I felt good on the climbs, I was riding with high cadence and saving my strength. I was very smart about my race, I did everything I wanted to do, I was concentrated on the downhills… and I managed to get tenth place finish. It’s great to say that I’m in the top-10 on this race.”
“It’s kind of a tradition that I do well on the last race of the season, and this year was no exception,” adds Tanja.
She had better result on the World Cup in Canada, but this is whole different ballgame; Tanja comments: “I think this result can compare with 7th place from Mont-Sainte-Anne. Some girls were missing there, all of them were here and for everybody this is the most important race of the season. I had a great day, but I didn’t expect to get higher than that.”
While many of the riders suffered on the climbs and even more so on technical sections – there were a lot of flats and crashes – Tanja was riding strong and aggressive, it was especially great to watch her on the sections like Jacob’s Ladder the brand new drop The Crusher. Tanja choose to race on her Trek Top Fuel and on Schwalbe’s Racing Ralph tires. She also tried other models, but these offered best combination of traction and protection. “Bike setup was perfect, I was again on the full-suspension Top Fuel, the bike that suits me better. I also like this difficult course – maybe some girls are stronger on the climbs, but they lost on the technical sections. I also did couple of mistakes, but nothing big, this is normal when you ride at the high pace. Everything was working for me, and I took full advantage of that."
Jolanda Neff took gold for Switzerland, bronze and silver went to Annie Last of UK and Pauline Ferrand Prevot from France.
2017 season came to an end with today’s race, but Tanja is already looking forward to a new one. This is how she summarizes the season: “I’m very happy with it, this is my third best season in the professional racing career. I was already 4th and 5th on the World Champs in the past, I can now add 10th place finish to that. These are great results. Also important for me is that I have great result on the end of the season and that gives me a lot of motivation for the next months. I proved to myself that I can be strong throughout the season, not just on the individual races, and I wish I’ll have season with even better results. I know I’m capable of it, and I can only hope I will have good training and good races also in the next season. I just have to preserve self-confidence and continue good work with people around me.”
Replay of the race on Red Bull TV
Photos by Grega Stopar