It was a tight and exciting race for overall titles on Maribor’s Pohorje mountain all the way to the end.
The first season of Unior Downhill Cup ended on Maribor’s Pohorje mountain with exciting racing and decisions about overall winners. About a hundred riders from ten countries entered the DH Visit Pohorje race on the world famous World Cup track. Finally Monika Hrastnik (Blackthorn) and Jure Žabjek (Unior Tools Team) celebrated overall victories in elite categories.
Monika, the UCI ranking number 10, had no major problems winning both the semi-final and final runs. In both runs Špela Horvat (KK Jastrebarsko WD-40) finished in second and Katarina Primožič (BATT Team) in third place. After winning the iXS European Downhill Cup overall and breaking into World’s top 10 Hrastnik also won the home series overall title.
Jure Žabjek, also UCI number 10 and iXS EDC winner, had a much more eventful day. He crashed in the semi-final and finished dead last, not taking any points. His teammate Žiga Pandur was fastest and at least took some points away from second placed Miran Vauh (Blackthorn), Jure’s challenger for overall. Before the last run of the season Žabjek was only 29 points ahead of Vauh, which is less than the difference between points awarded to 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed in the final. It was a direct duel in the final run for overall between the fastest riders of the season – the faster one was to take the title.
Žabjek opened the final with an excellent run, on a drying and faster track he improved the semi-final runs of Pandur and Vauh by almost nine seconds. He sat in the hot seat all race long, waiting for the last two riders on the track. Vauh was far from his best and ended in fifth place just under 11 seconds down. Pandur got closest to Žabjek, just over 4 seconds behind. It was the best result of the season for Žiga and he also managed to take third place overall away from Jan Cimperman (MTB Trbovlje).
Cimperman finished in third and Miha Ivančič (ŠKTD Avče) in fourth place with Vauh fifth.
Junior male category was also exciting for the overall. Slovenian champion Rudi Pintar (Sinter Brakes Team) won the semi-final from the overall leader Matic Kokelj (Wolf Racing Team) and Croatian Ivan Bašić (BK TNT Pazin). Then Bašić won the final in front of Kokelj and Pintar. So Kokelj managed to stay on top of the standings in front of Pintar and Bašić.
In other categories riders just confirmed their overall titles: Marko Niemiz (Sinter Brakes Team) in U17, Erazem Kos (Supersnurf) in U15, Gašper Jereb (ŠKTD Avče) in masters and Andreas Vidovič (Ganesha Team) in amateur.
Quotes from overall winners
Monika Hrastnik: “I just wanted to get down this time. I had an okay final run with some mistakes. The season is finally over, it has been my hardest so far, with most starts, but it was also the most successful one. I couldn’t be happier, especially because I managed to avoid injuries except for the sprained pinky from Lourdes which is still giving me a hard time.”
Jure Žabjek: “After my OTB in the semi-final I knew I needed a very good final run to defend my overall title. Vauh got really close. In my final run I had a close call right after start, I managed to save it but I lost a couple of seconds there and I knew I really had to push it from there to make up. So I just went full speed from there.”
Matic Kokelj: “My season went as planned. Kranjska Gora was my best race and from there I just defended my lead. Next year will be my final as junior, I would like to take part in all European Cup races and as many World Cups as possible.”
Photos by Klemen Humar