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Matej Mohoric: “I dream of winning the Giro”

In 2012, at the World Championships, Matej Mohoric won the gold medal in the Junior Road Race, a perfect ending for a season that was already impressive for the young Slovenian, just 17 years old at that time (he was second in the individual time trial at the Worlds and had seven victories in UCI events).

The win from Valkenburg caught the attention of numerous big teams, and a year later, Matej Mohoric has signed with a World Tour one. Which team is it, what are his objectives for the future, and many more, in the following interview I’ve done with Matej at the beginning of this week.

– Matej, when was your first contact with cycling?

It happened 12 years ago. Before that, I used to practice swimming. My neighbour encouraged me to start cycling and I really liked the sport. I wanted to go for mountain cycling, but then decided for road cycling, because there was no mountain cycling team near my home. I really wanted to start and my parents wouldn’t let me from the start, because it was quite dangerous for a small child to go on a two hour ride alone. But soon they saw my desire and they let me start.

– How were the first years in Slovenia?

Well, I was small and weak as a child. I could ran fast in school compared to my schoolmates, but I was absolutely not strong. I had from the very beginning good technical skills on the bicycle. I developed that alone, I tried to do tricks as soon as I got my first 26’’ bicycle. When I was just nine years old, I was able to do a 100 metre wheelie, with both hands on the handlebar, of course. My first results in cycling showed I might have a talent for this sport. Even though I was not strong enough to clip-in my shoes with the pedals, I finished 6th in my first race, 3rd in my second and 2nd in my third – I rode all these races clipless, I was a bit too ashamed to tell it to my trainer. After that I did it anyway and got another pair of pedals. However, I had to wait for another four months, until the August of that year, for my first win. Although I was good on the climbs, the first race I have won was completely flat.

– What is the level of cycling in your country?

Cycling in Slovenia is a phenomenon. We have around 6-7 teams that develop riders of U17 and below, 4-5 teams developing juniors/U19 and only three Continental teams. One of them, Adria Mobil, is pretty good, also high in the UCI rankings and well-organized. The second one, Radenska Rog, has only U23 riders and is also well organized and has for now enough sponsors to keep going. My team, Sava, is the third and this is probably the last season in which it has a Continental license. But on the other hand we now have 10 riders in the World Tour level this year and another 3 in the Pro Continental level, which is huge for a 2-million people nation.

– What kind of a rider are you? What are your main strenghts?

I’m good on the climbs and sometimes in the time trial. I am also good in cornering and downhills, which is probably also part of the reason why I’m good in the time trials. I also like the heat and warm or even hot weather. I do not like cold, especially combined with rain or even snow. However, I am not bothered by rain in the Summer months, when it is usually still warm. I like that indeed, because in those conditions I can make bigger gaps on the downhills when in break.

– In 2012 you’ve had an excellent season, which you ended on a high note, after you won the Junior Road Race at the World Championships. How was that race, how did you feel after that win?

Last year my season really was great, especially the second part of it. The truth is that I crashed badly in the first part and was unable to train for a good week, so I missed out making a good result in Nations Cup races which were all taking part in the earlier part of the season. However, I made up for all the bad luck in the Summer and the Autumn, with wins in Giro di Lunigiana and Giro di Basilicata and, of course, with silver and gold medals at the Worlds. I was astonished after winning the Worlds, I couldn’t believe what I have done.

– Almost one year later, what improvements would you say you’ve made?

I have improved my climbing for sure. But it is true, because of that I didn’t improve so much in time trialling. I am now also much more resistant, because races here in the Elite category, where I compete the most, are much longer, sometimes twice as long as the ones from the Junior category.

– What’s next for you this season?

I am now preparing for the Tour de l’Avenir later this month. I hope that I can do well there, I will give my best and then we will see. The second goal of course is the World Championship again. This time it takes part in Firenze and there will be a lot of climbing, which might suit my characteristics.

– And how about 2014, will you go neo-pro, as rumoured, with a World Tour team?

Yes, next year I am turning pro with the Cannondale Pro Cycling team. I am very happy and looking forward to cooperate with this great team. I am a bit nervous too, but I think I will manage the task and meet their expectations.

– One more question: what race would you like to win in the future?

I dream of winning a three-week race, like the Giro d’Italia.

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