Matej Mohoric: A promising career begins

In the team pages of the Official Tour de France Guide (Australian Edition) we include commentary on the strengths, ambitions and history of each of the 22 line-ups for the 101st edition. There is also a sidebar with some trivia for each team. On the Cannondale team page, for example, we offer the following tid-bits…:

• Basso won the white jersey in his second Tour de France (2002).

• Sagan won the green jersey in his first two Tours (2012 and 2013).

• Mohoric is the first rider to win the world championship road race in the under-19s and under-23s in successive years.*

• Moser was third in the stage to Alpe d’Huez last year but he was first at the top for the first of the ascents in stage 18…

• Sojasun is now a co-sponsor of the Cannondale team; it was the name of a wildcard team that contested the Tour in 2012 and 2013.

• King was eliminated from his first Tour (2013) after finishing outside the time limit in the team time trial.

 

*Note: This one reference to Mohoric, the youngest rider eligible to start the Tour de France in 2014, was enough to prompt us to publish a profile on the Slovenian from RIDE #64 online. Below is the story by Jean-François Quenet that was originally published in December 2013.

 

Mohoric-2012

Matej Mohoric holds off a late challenge from Caleb Ewan to win the junior road race at the 2012 world championships.
Photo: Graham Watson

 

Out of the rainbow… and into the pro ranks

 

The 19-year-old Slovenian who won two successive road race world championships – as a junior in 2012 and an under-23 rider in 2013 – is now competing as a professional. Matej Mohoric made his first appearance at the Tour Down Under. He is not just an exceptional bike rider for his age, he’s also a very clever young man…

 

– By Jean-François Quenet

 

This is the story of a teenager who got used to scoring five out of five in every subject at school in Kranj, Slovenia, except for sport where he only managed 4/5 in year seven. He remembers that, during that same year, he also got only 4/5 in English. “But the level of English in Slovenia is very high,” he quickly pointed out. He took his final exam in German and started learning Italian in October last year as the Cannondale team he signed for retains much of its Italian heritage. “In early January in California, for my first trip to an English speaking country, I gave two interviews the same day… in Italian!” He laughs about it now and a smile reveals a certain pride.

Everything seems easy for Matej Mohoric, who admits his passion for “methaphysics, psychology, nutrition, cooking, training and reading”.

This is the only young cyclist ever to have won two road race world championships back to back in the junior and under-23 ranks. On both occasions, he beat Caleb Ewan, like in Valkenburg in 2012 when, at the age of 17, he surprised the bunch with a blistering attack just before the flamme rouge. (A frustrated Ewan led the best of the rest to the line to take silver.) At the top of the Cauberg, Mohoric took the first of his rainbow jerseys.

His solo win in the espoirs category last year in Florence was an even greater masterpiece. “I exploded in my second year as a junior,” he said, insisting that he wasn’t much of a cyclist earlier on. “But in those past two years, I’ve been injured in the first part of the season and I got all my results from May onwards. I’ve never seen myself as something more than an ordinary human and an ordinary cyclist.

 

Young and... ah, experienced: Mohoric and Voigt. The youngest and oldest riders eligible to start the Tour in 2014. Photo: Rob Arnold

Young and… ah, experienced: Mohoric and Voigt. The youngest and oldest riders eligible to start the Tour in 2014.
Photo: Rob Arnold

 

“I’m just living my dream,” he continued. “I don’t do cycling for the sake of getting results. I do it for the joy.

“I wake up every morning with a lot of expectations and I go to bed every night with the satisfaction of having done good work. I set goals for myself, like coming to form for a world championship. But I never feel stressed or felt under pressure. I treat every race like a video game where I try to reach 100 points and then it’s bling, bling, bling… I love the speed on a bike, fighting for positions in the bunch – there are many aspects to the contest, and each is fun.”

Mohoric (pronounced: ‘More-rich’) rode the Tour Down Under as his first WorldTour race, at the age of 19 and three months. “I thought it would be tougher,” he confessed. “I remember I suffered more last year with the transition from the juniors to the under-23s. I really like racing as a pro. Everyone respects everyone. The speed, the crowd… everything is better than what I’ve experienced before. I’ve been very impressed by Simon Gerrans and Diego Ulissi. It’s totally different to watch these guys from the bunch than on TV. In stage two, I blew 800 metres before the finish line and later on YouTube I could see them starting their sprint with 200 metres to go. In a couple of years, I might get there and become competitive as well.”

When asked about his second championship win, when he attacked before the final climb on the circuit in Florence and descended like a demon – with his bum on the top tube and tip of his saddle pushing the small of his back – Mohoric offered another giggle. His explanation of the winning move was blunt: “I was getting a little bored with the race, so I attacked earlier than had been planned.” It worked.

In Adelaide, Mohoric got a chance to meet Jens Voigt, a fellow professional who is 23 years his senior but still at the height of his powers. “Listening to him has been amazing,” said the Slovenian. “He is the father of all of us. The stories he tells are an excellent motivation factor. There’s such a difference between the time he turned pro and now. The support we have is much more than 15 years ago.

“Jens told me to never give up – he repeated that many times and said: ‘Trust yourself when others don’t, that makes the difference at the end’.”

The other rider he socialised quite a lot with, except for his team-mates at Cannondale, was Ewan. “He’s my big friend,” Mohoric said of the rider from the Southern Highlands of NSW who accompanied him to the podium at the world championship in Holland in September 2012. “We started speaking to each after that race. He’s a really nice guy. I’m also a big fan of his, maybe because he’s got this speed that I don’t have. We’re very different types of cyclists. Caleb is the next big thing for the bunch sprints and the small climbs.”

Mohoric took the opportunity to watch Peter Sagan at the Cannondale training camp in California (see p.156). In the States this January he shared a room with Ivan Basso and got to hear more stories from an old warrior. When the name of Sagan pops up, he laughs. “The Slovenian from Liquigas, as Lance Armstrong called him?” He is well aware of Sagan’s debut as a pro, in the same part of the world as him (South Australia), four years ago, when the famous Texan noticed the 20-year-old Slovakian talent.

“Sagan impressed me big time,” said the Slovenian about their time together in California. “Even though he likes to play the role of a clown, he’s really intelligent. I’ve seen how big his engine is. What he can do at training is amazing, as much as his handling skills of his bike.”

Coming back to himself as a neo-pro, he cut short: “I don’t expect to win any race this year.

“My first goal is to enjoy cycling. My second is to gain experience. My third is to peak form at some point of the season and see where I can finish. I chose Cannondale with the advice of [former Slovenian pro] Gorazd Stangelj because it’s the closest pro team to home. The headquarters are just an hour away from my parents’ house. I was not in search of money. I was looking for a team where I’d develop myself like they’ve done with Sagan but also Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger before.”

 

Reading about one of his rivals... Mohoric and RIDE #63. Photo: Rob Arnold

Reading about one of his rivals… Mohoric and RIDE #63.
Photo: Rob Arnold

Author: rob@ride

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