Page 49

SPORTS 49

Cycling

The Fever is On Recreational and professional cycling are worlds apart, but they both enjoy immense popularity in Slovenia. Community races are among the most visited recreational events and professional cyclists are a force to be reckoned with on the international level. By Simon Demšar

G

iro d’Italia, which ended on 29th May, featured three Slovenians: Simon Špilak, Gorazd Štangelj and Borut Božič. The former two played supportive roles for their Lampre and Astana team leaders, respectively, while the latter is a sprinter and prefers rubbing elbows with the likes of Mark Cavendish and Alessandro Petacchi. His best individual result in this year’s Giro was a fifth place. One step further up is the Tour de France where all Slovenian hopes are on Jani Brajkovič. Learning the ropes alongside Lance Armstrong throughout his professional career, Brajkovič has come of age. With Armstrong’s retirement, Brajkovič is poised to become team captain of the RadioShack team for the Tour, which starts on 2nd July. “The team has told me clearly that I would be the captain, subject to the level of fitness expect-

Tour of Slovenia 16 – 19 June Stage 1 (Time trial): Ljubljana (Kongresni trg – Trnovo – Dolenjska cesta – tunnel under the castle – Town Hall – Prešernov trg. Stage 2: Koper – Črni Kal – Sežana – Komen – Ajdovščina – Nova Gorica. Stage 3: Tržič – Kranj – Kamnik – Črnivec – Kranjski Rak – Mozirje – Golte. Stage 4: Ptuj – Podčetrtek – Poklek – Studenec – Šentjernej – Novo mesto.

ed from me,” said the 27-year-old from Metlika. Being the captain in the company of such proven stars as Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer is something that no Slovenian cyclist has achieved. “Should things go wrong, Andreas and Levi will take over and I will assist the best man. Our objective is a high position in both individual and team rankings.” It’s noteworthy that Brajkovič is only the second Slovenian after Tadej Valjavec, who will carry the flag of his team. Earlier this year, Brajkovič finished the Tour de Romandie in 7th place. Two other guys have made cycling news this year. Jan Tratnik became the next Slovenian professional when he joined the Belgian team Quick Step, while Robert Vrečer won the Tour of Poland, racing for Perutnina Ptuj, the only Slovenian professional team. On the domestic stage, the Tour of Slovenia has established itself as a respectable race, attracting thousands of spectators along the roads. The race is traditionally organised by the Adria Mobil cycling club and they rarely fail to surprise: from obvious delights, such as a stage over Vrščič (the highest mountain pass in Slovenia), they moved on and took the race to Italy and Austria. This year, the big thing will be the first ever stage on the streets of Ljubljana on 16th June, with the start from Kongresni trg and the finish at Prešernov trg. “Financially and logistically, this has been the major undertaking this year, but with the support of city authorities, who are very en-

thusiastic about the race, we have made it,” said Andrej Filip of the organising committee. Replacing Vršič, the highest point this year will be Golte, an equally demanding climb. Filip has also revealed that five ProTour teams (Cofidis, Geox, Lampre, Liquigas and Saxo Bank) will attend the race. Their line-ups are not known yet, but we can be sure that even their reserve riders will be a mighty force. Should they decide to send their Slovenian cyclists (Špilakom, Boletom and Kristjan Koren), it would be just the icing on the cake. With the success of Jure Robič, who tragically lost his life in an accident last year, endurance cycling became an equally popular form of racing, and Robič was one of the most popular athletes

in Slovenia. In his memory, two teams will enter the Race Across America (RAAM), which Robič won five times. Marko Baloh admits that he will take part thanks to Robič’s encouragement. “Before his accident, he was repeatedly telling me that my time had come and he was even considering being part of my team,” said Baloh, 43, whose best results in the RAAM are a second and a third place. For the first time, a Slovenian team will enter the relay part of the RAAM. The team consisting of Damjan Rupnik, Franci Klun, Alen Štucin and Damjan Mohorič, is aptly named “Homage to Jure Robič”. The 4,821-kilometre race starts on 18 June in Oceanside, California, and ends about a week later in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Franja Marathon Sat 11 Jun–Sun 12 Jun, BTC City, Ljubljana Marathon Franja, the most celebrated community race in Slovenia, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The event has grown in organisation and this year took another step forward when it became part of the official UCI (International Cycling Union) programme of recreational events. The main event is 156 kilometres long. There are also a shorter, 97-kilometre version, plus a 1.5-kilometre test for kids. 11 June (4.30pm): kids’ course (3-7 years), 1450 m 11 June (4 pm): family & school marathon, 28 km (Ljubljana BTC Sneberje - Šentjakob - Dol - Dolsko - Zalog - Sneberje - Ljubljana BTC) 12 June (10:30 am): Little Marathon Franja BTC City, 97 km (Ljubljana BTC - Tromostovje - Dobrovo - Horjul - Vrzdenc - Gorenja vas - Škofja Loka - Šmartno - Tacen - Ljubljana BTC) 12 June (9 am): Marathon Franja, 156 km (Ljubljana BTC Tromostovje - Brezovica - Vrhnika - Logatec - Kalce - Godovič - Idrija Cerkno - Gorenja vas - Škofja Loka - Šmartno - Tacen - Ljubljana BTC) June 2011

The Slovenia Times 141  

Slovenian Magazine in English Language

The Slovenia Times 141  

Slovenian Magazine in English Language

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