An interview with Tanja Žakelj before she takes off for the first races of the 2016 season. Also on her new gear and the Olympic Games.
Tanja Žakelj, the most successful Slovenian mountain bike racer, always sets her golas high and this season is no exception. With the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, where cross-country races will be held on August 20th and 21st, the goals go off the scale. Before that the World Championships race will be held in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, on July 3rd.
Before the season Tanja switched some of her equipment and even if the brand is the same it needs some adjusting.
We talked to Tanja before she took off for the first races in Cyprus
Aleš: Tanja, how is your training?
Tanja: I’m happy with my pre-season so far. I trained home most of the time. The winter was mild so I’ve been lucky so far. Of course it took some improvisation but a day on trainer here or there doesn’t hurt. As expected real winter moved in in February and that is why we planned our first races for that time. It will be more of a training for me than a form check.
What does you race program before the Olympic Games look like?
Hmm … Cyprus, Italy, Slovenia Cup. No surprises really. Of course before Rio I’ll be at the European and World Championships. We had several meetings with the team and planned it all really well. Since then I’ve only been thinking ahead short term, following my training plan and regeneration day to day and leaving the rest to others.
How are you getting used to your new bikes?
I’ve been getting used to my Trek ProCaliber and it hasn’t been too hard. A new bike is always great motivation and riding has been great right from the start, then I took some time to fine tune it. Now the races will show the real picture.
Tanja is starting the new season on a new frame. Of course she will also have a full suspension bike.
Will it ne important to you to gain UCI points or will you just be getting ready for the Olympics?
Both, it is the most practical and economical way to go.
Will you start the World Championships full on or will it be inferior to the Olympics?
These are two separate races, I will do my best in both. You can’t be up front at the Worlds if you take it as a training race. And if I’m not up front there I don’t think I can be among the fastest in Rio. There is no reason not to take the World Championships seriously. I am doing everything to do well in both races and there is enough time in between them.
How important will the World Cup races be for you this year?
Very much since we don’t have that many races at the highest level. Six World Cup races, the European and World Championships and then the Olympic Games. So most races are still in the World Cup and I think it would be irresponsible to take it less seriously.
Would you also like to do well in the World Cup to gain respect from the competition?
I already have the respect but I can use good results for my confidence and my goals. Similiar as the Olympic Champion Julie Bresset. I have much respect for her and I think the others do as well.
Tanja iand her fans
Photos by Grega Stopar