WC Val di Sole XCO: Excellent finish of the fantastic season

Tanja finished the UCI MTB World Cup season on top – with 16th place on the XCO race in Val di Sole. She was strong and competitive on every single big (or smaller) of the season and has more than deserved some time off.

Tanja Žakelj had a number of great results in the World Cup and both European & World Championships; she finished the season in the same manner, with a result just seconds away from top-15. Tanja was only racing on the selected events and decided not to enter short track races on Friday, so her overall standings are not as good, but it was pure joy to watch her race for the top spots just behind the fastest ladies in the world.

“I went relaxed to the track in Val in Sole, but still 100% focused and the final result was phenomenal. In the beginning of the race I went with the flow, looked for every gap and jumped where possible. I didn’t do a single mistake and never lost speed for no good reason. I was starting from the 4th row, but I still had a good starting position, then I focused on my own race and was careful not to make any mistakes. I took full advantage of everything that I have in me and the result is just like the season was. I didn’t have a bad race whole year long and was constantly among top-20 in the world,” explained Tanja after the race, of course with smile on her face.

The atmosphere on the last day of 2022 World Cup racing was very good and loud, despite the smaller crowed that we had a week ago in Les Gets. They helped Tanja as well: “The atmosphere was really great, these fans make you feel like you’re in the lead and are so loud for every rider. I hope I’ll miss this loud support, after off-season it’s good to get back to racing with lots of drive.”

Tanja’s 2022 season was one of the best in the recent years, with multiple victories and podium finishes on the UCI C1 & HC races, she also defended national champion jersey. She was in the top-20 on every World Cup race she entered, the final result was worse only in Nové Mesto na Morave, and that only thanks to mechanical. She was 12th on the European Champs and 16th on the World Champs a week ago. Today she took another 16th place in the World Cup, matching her result from Andorra earlier in the summer. What is also important, Tanja contributed a bigger chunk of UCI points to the Slovenian effort to enter Slovenian rider on the Olympic games in Paris. Tanja is of course also satisfied with her racing season: “I was a very beautiful and successful season, which gives me lots of motivation for the future. The season somehow lifted me, especially after some poor energy in the start of the season. I didn’t know what to expect then and started the season with no expectations; maybe that was even better. I simply enjoy on the bike, I enjoy on the training sessions. I’m on the life journey that I like and suits me well. It’s true that I selected my races very carefully and always considered the benefits for me. I was selective, but I was on 100% on every single one and I really didn’t have a bad race.”

Tanja still has couple of small races ahead of her, which are all very exciting, but she’ll also take a good rest and then start focusing on the 2023 season.

Photography: Grega Stopar