It was the big news of Friday night (yes, that's how huge UCI went with 2018 World Cup announcement): The first downhill race of 2018 World Cup will take place on the island of Lošinj in Croatia. It is impossible to understand how this happened without knowing the story of Trbovlje downhill race in Slovenia? Where's the connection? Keep reading.

They organized the first Downhill Javor in 1999, the year of the first Maribor World Cup. It was pretty underground and not included in the national calendar. The guys who are mainly still the same crew these days formed the MTB Trbovlje club the year after and organized their first Slovenia Cup race in 2001. They kept putting it on until 2012 with some start of the season "test events" in between - all day timed session which enabled riders to test their skills and gear before the race season started.

DH Javor Trbovlje, Manson section, photo by Tomaž Deisinger

With their race and their very successful MTB Trbovlje became the core of Slovenian downhill scene. Then Seba, Drč, Peri, Pingo, Cec... had an idea to have "winter base" someplace with a nicer climate. For training, having fun, holding an event... Seba (Sebastjan Zmrzljak, the club president) had already spent some time on Lošinj and explored the local trails on his bike. So they gave a shot at trying to build a scene for themselves and the rest on this island 300km away from their homes.

We rode there with Trbovlje crew first in 2011. In 2013 they organized the first downhill race in Lošinj. Besides Croatians and Slovenians some Austrians turned up. In 2014 they held their first UCI Class 1 downhill race. In 2015 they were forced to cancel the race due to organizational and financial reasons so we've seen the second DH Lošinj C1 race last year. Third one is coming on April 23rd this year and it should be well attended since, you know, there will be a World Cup race there next year.

The course from St. Ivan to the old port of Veli Lošinj is not the most alpine you've seen. It is 1.7km long with a 256m drop and the times go below 2 and a half minutes. We'll have a story on the course later.

Start house with a bell tower? The church of St. Ivan on the homonymous hill is located just meters from the start. This is the Trbovlje gang back in 2011. Photo by AD

Three questions for Sebastjan Zmrzljak

Congratulations! When did you get the idea that this could be a really big race?
Seba: The idea's been there since the start, we just didn't think out loud ;) But when we saw that we have the local community support and the support from Lošinj Hotels Group and Lošinj tourism board, that they believe in what we do, we decided to bid for a World Cup race. AK Lošinj is also a great partner, we organized C1 races together. The island itself is great place to visit and the finish area is right on the seafront, among the boats in this little medieval town. There is no other race like this one in the world. We thought it might bring some freshness into the World Cup downhill series, it is completely different from the cold alpine villages. It also helped that we had positive feedback from some fast riders like Lukasik, Žabjek, Pandur, Mears, Gruber and others The terrain is demanding even if it's not the longest track. We saw that we can make it challenging even for the best in the world.

What is the next step for the organization?
We are getting ready for this year's C1 race on April 22nd and 23rd. The course will be changed, it will be more demanding than last year. For 2018 we are making a plan how to organize all the logistics in Veli Lošinj, the parking system in Mali Lošinj 3 km away and shuttle busses between towns.

How are people on the island reacting? Do they know what hit them?
Everyone involved is genuinely excited and the people here are used of the crowd since they have so many tourists here in the summer. We are planning meetings with local community representatives to coordinate everything, everything should run smooth.

Well spirited organization crew getting pissed after the race, photo by Klemen Butja

Also see
Breaking news: 2018 World Cup downhill in Croatia!

Cover photo: start with THE view, photo by Klemen Humar