In Grožnjan Miha Smrdel confirmed his overall SloEnduro title after a battle with Huth and Markič. For the first time series trophies handed out at the final.
The eight season of SloEnduro, an international mountain bike series based in Slovenia, has come to its end. For the sixth time it ended in Grožnjan, a pictoresque town in Istria, Croatia, with Enduro Grozni, a race, organized by local club BBK Grožnji. 118 riders from Austria, Croatia, Germany, Italy and Slovenia came to race in ideal conditions on a warm early fall Istrian weekend.
This was round five of the season, not counting the two SloEnduro 4Fun events which are not bringing any points. Some titles were decided at round four in late August in Kočevje and some decisions were left open for the final race.
Miha Smrdel steps on the gas at the end
It was not possible to push the junior Miha Smrdel (MBK Črni Vrh) out of the first place of the overall ranking. But that didn’t mean he went slow. He finished second three times this season and took his second win of the season in Grožnjan. Gathering 1700 points, Smrdel became the fourth overall champion in SloEnduro history after Kristjan Medvešček (2014), Vid Peršak (2015-2018) and Max Fejer (2019).
But in Grožnjan the masters rider Nejc Huth (Energijateam.com), the winner of the last race here in 2019, was in the lead. Then he only finished 6th in third and last special stage of the day, Smrdel went over 5 seconds faster and after eight and a half of »net racing« he won by just .69!
Jan Markič (ŠKTD Avče) stayed in third all day long and also finished third just 1.02 behind the winner. Two more Slovenians joined the top five overall podium, Miha Tratnik Bajc (MBK Črni Vrh) in fourth and Kočevje winner David Ivartnik (Energijateam.com) in fifth place.
Ivartnik defended the second place overall and Markič stayed in third. Only Huth climbed from fifth to fourth, passing Peršak who was at the EWS final in Scotland.
Women race brought was the first win for Teja Cerar (MTB Trbovlje) from Italian Lara Gasparotto (ASD Tecno Bike K2) in second place and Tamara Homar (Energijateam.com) in third. Gaia Kravanja (KK Črn trn) and Urška Korasa (KD Zverinice) didn’t come to Istria to battle for the overall win so they stayed in first and second places respectively and Tamara Homar moved up to third.
The winners speak
Miha Smrdel: »It was an intense race, we were really close all the way to the end. I managed to get some seconds in on the last special stage. The top three finished in just over a second. I’m happy with the race and my second win. It was an amazing season for me. It started in Ajdovščina when I surprised myself with second place. Then I won at round two and went to to take two more second places and now another win. I’m very happy with the outcome and I’m looking forward to doing event better next year.«
Teja Cerar: »This was an unexpected win for me, I come for mainly for the great atmosphere and company. I had quite a crash on third stage, head first into the ground like never before, it was an interesting experience. Thanks to trail builder Alan for finding my visor and bottle. I enjoy the classic SloEnduro races much more than the 4Fun events, there is less waiting here, more pedaling and more action!«
Jan Markič won the men’s elite category from Tratnik Bajc and Ivartnik. The final top 3 ranking is the same as before the final: Markič first, Ivartnik second and Jan Štucin (Pedal racing team) third.
Smrdel won the men’s junior category from Enej Podlipnik Enejem Podlipnikom (Bikehanic – 20 Chocolate) and Blaž Polovšak (KK Ravne). Smrdel won the title with maximum points, second went to Jernej Kavčič (Sloga 1902 Idrija) and third to Austrian Valentin Frey (Im.Puls Sport Union Klagenfurt) who lost a place for not attending the final since the Austrian Championships were held on the same weekend. But Frey also became the SloEnduro Rookie of the Year.
Huth (master 1), Branko Belingar (Avče, master 2) and Uroš Ogris (MTB klub Kranj, master 3) won the masters categories. Huth and Bellingar also became series champions in their respective categories while Martin Brus (Kamplc racing team) became the master 3 champion.
Local rider Sandi Bažon (BBK Grožnjan) won the hobby class race.
Jakob Lorber (KK Završnica) won the U15 category race on the short course (1st + 3rd special stage) from Lovro Kojzek (KK Ravne) and Simone Leo (Bel Gelato Cycling). Ažbe Kalinšek (Bikehanic – 20 Chocolate) defended the title with 6th place and Lorber moved from third to second by passing his teammate Juš Ažman who finished 4th this time.
We’ve seen an even bigger upset in the U17 category. By winning in front of Croatian champion Frane Medić (BK Crikvenica) and Miha Jerkič (KK Črn trn), Blaž Kavčič (KK Završnica) passed the series leader Marsel Pirih (Pedal racing team) who only finished 10th. Jerkič is third in the final standings.
In U17 female category Tina Smrdel (MBK Črni Vrh) took her fifth straight win in front of Ana Inkret (Calcit bike team) and rookie Lana Epšek (KK Ravne), a cross-country rider. Tina and Ana are first and second in the final standings and Eva Palka (KD Zverinice) is third.
The young riders on the shourt course were once again a very important part of the race since there were 42 of them at the start!
The third special stage has been chosen as the Kenda SuperStage this time since the Srna trail has been freshly built for the race. Sponsor prizes went to the fastest man and woman, brother and sister this time – the Smrdels: Miha and Tina.
See you in 2022
Season eight wrapped up, trophies handed over. So no need for the off-season »Gala« event this winter but that does not mean we are not getting together for a ride, a party and to announce the Event of the Year! And do a little planning for 2022. More info coming up soon!
Photos by Matej Damijanić @damijanicphotography