Kranjska Gora‘s Protagonists
The first name to be mentioned is, of course, Slawomir Lukasik (POL - NS Bikes Factory Racing), last year’s EDC champion, who will be eager to defend his title this upcoming season. Last year in Kranjska Gora, Lukasik set the best time during the qualification, but ended up in second place, while Johannes Fischbach (GER - Radon Factory Team) took the lead in the race run. This year, he won’t settle with second place, but go for the full amount of points for the rankings. Fischbach, his closest competitor, is not registered for the race, as he still suffers from the repercussions of a broken collarbone.
Another favorite, however, is European Champion 2015 Jure Zabjek (SLO - Unior Tools Team). In last year’s race he finished in fifth place and ended up in seventh place in the overall rankings and he probably will be eager to impress the Slovenian audience even more this time.
Also Loris Revelli (ITA - Argentina Bike De Vinci Italy) should be mentioned among the top ten favorites after an incredible first season in the Elite category. In 2016 he reached the EDC podium twice already and back as a Junior he even won the World Cup – and his career has only just started. Also Jacob Dickson (GBR - Giant Factory Off-Road Team) should be added to the calculations with his third place in the junior category of the UCI World Cup rankings. Stanislav Sehnal (CZE - Banshee Bikes) also reached the podium twice last year as did Miran Vauh (CRO - Blackthorn). As you can see, it is nearly impossible to deliver a reliable prognosis – but that is what makes it so exciting, right?
The Elite Women category includes more than 20 riders this year. Last year succeeded in Kranjska Gora and later also took the title of the series. Of course, it would be best for her to just replay last year’s results, but there are some strong competitors who might have other plans… Probably the closest competitor will once more be Carina Cappellari (SUI - NS Bikes Factory Racing). With a new team comes a lot of energy and motivation and she already made clear that she is ready to pick a fight and take the title in the European Cup in Les Deux Alpes last year. Monika Hrastnik (SLO - Blackthorn), however, also reached the podium three times in last year’s EDC and should definitely be mentioned as one of the favorites for the upcoming season as well.
The European Cup officially is a stepping stone to the World Cup, but at the same time it is also a series for a new generation of riders – which is why we should not only have a look at the Elite categories when we are talking favorites!
Among the participants there are two teams who especially support young riders. From Germany the SRAM Young Guns Team sends Felix Krüger, Simon Maurer and Steffen Fuchs into the race this season, while the new Slovenian Sinter Brakes Team under Rajd Funsports will feature Rudi Pintar, Marko Niemiz, Vidian Šalehar Rihtar and Žan Pirš.
And there are, of course, also numerous others who have already proven their skills more than once during the past few years. Valentina Höll (AUT - Sram TLD Racing) will once more be in for the title, as will her competitors Anna Newkirk (USA - Team Project) and Ottilia Johansson Jones (GBR - Propain Gravity Juniors).
With more than 20 participants in the male U17 category it will definitely get interesting this season - especially for those who just entered the category and have yet to prove themselves among the new competition.
The U19 category consists of more than 40 riders and includes some names that might as well belong to the most promising talents of the discipline. Sylvain Cougoureux (FRA - Les Gets Intense Team) already took the title last year, so why should he settle for less this time?
Moritz Ribarich (AUT - NS Bikes Factory Racing), however, ended up in second place in the rankings and will definitely go for the first place this year. In this category, it is in general very hard to give a prognosis, since lots of last year’s favorites now start in the Elite Male, while some former U17 riders just joined the category.