Slovenian Tanja Žakelj (Unior Tools Team) and Italian Luca Braidot (TGS Forestale Olympia Vittoria) won the elite races of Saturday's UCI Class 1 and SloXcup Slovenian Cup cross country in Kamnik.

The race was held earlier than usual. We are used to be there in the heat but nobody thought the race on last day of April would be endangered by snowfall. It fell just days before the race and caused not only mud but also lots of downed trees. But the organization crew got to work and cleared the course. The only victim was the steep and straight "ski jump" descent that was cut out of the course. Going down with no control is usually ok but not if you are hitting a deep pool of mud at 60 kph at the bottom.

When race day came it was sunny and around 250 riders from 12 countries showed up.

Luca Braidot finishing

The twins and local sprint

Italian Braidot twins were in a class of their own in men's elite race. If not before fur sure when Belgian Jens Schurmans (Versluys Team) sprained his ankle in a crash and dropped out of the race. Luca finished first, a minute before Daniele who had a flat rear towards the end. Another minute later Michal Lami of National team of Slovakia followed in third place.

Top Slovenians were members of the local Calcit bike team, Boštjan Hribovšek and Rok Naglič, who eneded up sprinting for 10th place. Boštjan took the sprint 5 and a half minutes behind the winner.

"It is a very nice race, Mitja (Slovenian mechanic who finished 3rd in masters race, ed.) has been telling us about it. He invited us over and it was a good time since we need points in the Olympic season. We rode the course yesterday and saw that it suited us. It was muddy and full of roots. It is nice and technically demanding. My form is good, I'm happy about that because it is an important time of the season, I will be at the European Championships in Sweden next week," the winner said after the race.

Top five men, 4th Max Foidl (Aut) and 5th Zsolt Juhasz (Aut) should switch positions on podium

Diesel Tanja came back mid-race

Tanja had two serious rivals in the field - the Hungarian Barbara Benko (Focus XC Team) and Serbian Jovana Crnogorac. These were also the two who ran away from her in the first lap. But she returned the blow in lap three when she closed the gap, passed them and never let go of the lead. The Hungarian finished in second and the future Serbian Olympic athlete in third place.

Tanja commented: "I suffered from the beginning. I haven't been doing well in starts. I tried to keep up but I made a mistake in the first technical section and I lost the touch but luckily I don't fall too far behind. I tried to forget what my position was and tried to ride my best. I was still a bit tired from the Australian trip. But I confirmed that riding full suspension is the right decision. It saved me some energy when the others attacked in the climbs. We were even there but I was full on in the technical sections. I just rode in my pace all the way to the finish line."

Barbara, Tanja, Jovana and Italians Serena Calvetti (4th) and Giulia Gaspardino (5th)

Italian Matteo Leasso (Corratec-Keit) won the junior men's race and Slovenian Vita Movrin ( junior women's race.

Next SloXcup race follows on May 29th in Završnica, Žirovnica, but first it' s time for European Championships in Sweden next weekend. Tanja Žakelj will be the sole Slovenian representative there.

Complete results

Tanja Žakelj in cover photo, all photos by

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