DH Sljeme: Mud doesn’t stop the skilled and the daring

At the muddy third round of the 20chocolate Downhill Cup series on the DH Legends track above Zagreb, the Croatian Federation also awarded the 2023 championship titles. Luka Berginc and Hana Kranjec Žagar came out on top of elite podium.

After a long summer without home races in mountain biking formula one, the Slovenian downhill series has finally resumed. For the third race we joined forces with the Croatians, namely the organiser DSR – Bike Park Sljeme and the Croatian Cycling Federation, which also awarded this year’s national downhill titles at the race in Sljeme above Zagreb.

On the 1900 m long DH Legends track with 270 m of vertical drop on the ski slope on the north side of Sljeme, which the organisers revived last year after a 17 year break, this year also marked the 30th anniversary of the first DH Sljeme race, which was held on the other side of the hill, under the gondola, in 1993. This year, the finish line was moved a little lower and the course was extended.

It was not dusty at all on Sljeme over the weekend. Despite the poor weather prospects, 102 riders from Croatia and Slovenia came to race on Sunday. After Saturday’s rain, when the track was open for riding, and the night storm, the rain stopped mid-day on Sunday, but there were still strong winds at the start. The track, of course, did not dry out by the end of the race, but this did not particularly hinder the fastest riders.

Berginc remains unbeaten, but…

In the seeding run, which also earns half points for the series standings, the defending Croatian champion Ivan Bašić (Coast Riders) set the best time of the male elite category with 3 minutes, 2 seconds and 26 hundredths of a second. He was 2.82 seconds faster than the Slovenian champion Luka Berginc (DH Visit Pohorje) and earned the right to be the last rider to take to the track in the late afternoon finale. Matic Kokelj (Wolf Racing Team) was third fastest, 5.92 seconds behind Bašić.

Surprisingly, the Slovenian master champion Boštjan Volf (Wolf Racing by Wheelbase) was a good second faster than Bašić. Volf started half an hour earlier, but the conditions were not significantly different from those experienced by the elite rider later on.

In the final run, Volf improved his time significantly to 2:55.10 and it was interesting to see how the U17 and U19 riders and the elite would cope with the new track record.

Before the last three elite riders, Slovenian enduro rider David Ivartnik (Golovec Trails) was in the lead with a time of 3:05.50, a good second and a half over Gašper Jurečič (DGK Pohorje – Spank Team). Kokelj was fast and took the hot seat with a lead of just under four seconds. Bašić also improved his performance and took the lead to defend his Croatian national title, but just missed the three-minute mark. Berginc showed once again why he is currently the ruler at the national events. He won in 2:55.44. The honour of the best performance of the final, however, went to the veteran Volf.

Final results – elite men

  1. Luka Berginc (Slo, DH Visit Pohorje) 22:55.44
  2. Ivan Bašić (Cro, Coast Riders) +5.11
  3. Matic Kokelj (Slo, Wolf Racing Team) +6.25
  4. David Ivartnik (Slo, Golovec trails) +10.06
  5. Gašper Jurečič (Slo, DGK Pohorje – Spank Team) +11.67

Excellent first attempt by Hana Kranjec Žagar

In the women’s category, four young Slovenian competitors competed. The fastest in both the classification and the final was junior Hana Kranjec Žagar (Rajd Ljubljana), a cross-country racer who took the opportunity of borrowing equipment from the club and tried her hand at her first ever downhill race. A successful attempt! In the final, second place went to Ana Inkret (Calcit Bike Team), who beat last year’s Sljemena winner Tina Smrdel (MBK Črni Vrh). Tina was second in the seeding run, but lost a lot of time in the final when she crashed.

In the final Hana Kranjec Žagar caught up with Tina Smrdel

Vrstni results – women

  1. Hana Kranjec Žagar (Slo, Rajd Ljubljana) 3:47.33
  2. Ana Inkret (Slo, Calcit Bike Team) +5.42
  3. Tina Smrdel (Slo, MBK Črni Vrh) +27.59

The quick U17 men

In the master category, Volf won ahead of the new Croatian veteran champion Veno Vrbanović (BK Opušteno) and Rožle Mesec (Golovec trails).

Among the U19 junior men, Maks Oblak (ŠD Supersnurf) scored his first win ahead of Nino Popović (Rajd Ljubljana) and teammate Matjaž Franci Selan.

The U17 men were in fact faster than the U19. Matija Lačen (KK Črn trn) won here with an excellent time of 3:02.52 ahead of Vid Berlot and Maks Struna (both KK Završnica).

The victory also went to Črn trn in the U15 boys’ category, where Jurij Antler was the fastest ahead of Gabriel Nosan and Aljaž Šav (both Calcit Bike Team).

In the youngest U13 category, Gaj Palčič (Rajd Ljubljana) won ahead of Loren Mohar and his teammate Gal Novak.

The amateur category was again numerous and fast, thanks to the winner Berislav Topol (BK Stvaramo staze), former Croatian elite champion, with a time of 3:03.33. Jošt Štrucelj and Patrik Bašelj followed.

Complete results from DH Sljeme

Thank you Nino Ružička and the DSR – Bike Park Sljeme crew! See you in 2024.

Finals at Pohorje!

The fourth and final race of the 20chocolate Downhill Cup 2023 series is now confirmed. It will be the Kenda DH Pohorje in Maribor, and the date is 8 October 2023. Propositions and registrations follow.

More photos

Photos by Anže Furlan