FEATURE: Multi talented MezgecSun 3 Dec 2017
29-year-old Luka Mezgec enjoyed a successful 2017 season with ORICA-SCOTT, performing not only on the road but also on the mountain bike and cyclo-cross bike.
Mezgec took his first ever victory in the Slovenian road race championships after consistent top form throughout the European summer and went onto do the ‘triple’ by also claiming the Slovenian cross country mountain bike title in July and the cyclo-cross title yesterday.
However, it wasn’t just good form that helped Mezgec to this hat-trick of national titles, years of mountain bike racing at a high level enabled the Slovenian fast man to the take his third elite victory in the cross-country mountain bike discipline and use his skills to perform on the cyclco-cross bike.
“When I won the road title, I thought it was once in a life time chance to win both events (road and mountain bike championships) in the same year,” Mezgec explained. “I had a break before the mountain bike event so it wasn’t actually ideal preparation but I was quite confident I could do a good result so I decided to race it. I always ride MTB in the off-season and I have raced a lot before.”
After coming close on numerous occasions, 2017 was finally the year for Mezgec to step on the top step of the podium in the national road race despite being without team mates and outnumbered in the final.
“It felt great to win the road title for the first time,” Mezgec said. “I’ve been second twice before, it is actually race that I don’t really like too much because there’s only about 40 guys on the start line and it is alway a bit of a gamble.”
“This year I was attacking from the start because I don’t like to wait and in the end it was a really hard race.
“It was very unexpected taking the win there as there were six Bahrain-Merida riders left with me in the final so I was really happy to finally become the national champion.”
Usually known in the WorldTour peloton for his speed, having won sprint stages in races such as the Giro d’Italia and this season often working as a final lead-out rider for young sprinter, Caleb Ewan, Mezgec began his cycling career as a mountain biker before finding his great talent on the road.
“I raced MTB for four and a half years before I came to the road so I have a good background in this,” Mezgec continued. “I did my first world championships as a junior in 2006 and I was once national champion as a junior, each year as an under 23 rider and in 2009 and 2015 as an elite rider.”
“It was really special to take the MTB title again this year and then I knew I had to have a go at the cyclo-cross title also. There aren't really any Slovenian specialists in cyclo-cross which made it a unique opportunity for me to win three national titles in one year."
Along with his success in the national championship events, Mezgec had a taste for success on home soil earlier in the season, after a sprinting to victory on a rainy stage two at the Tour of Slovenia in June.
“I felt a bit of pressure at the Tour of Slovenia, it was a home race and all of the team supported me to have a go in the sprints,” Mezgec described.
“On the first stage I was third and I was disappointed because I could see I had the speed, but then the second stage I was able to win which was really nice - it was a hard, crazy race, really wet and slippery. To then win two national titles soon after was really cool to have these wins in my home country.”
The ORICA-SCOTT rider acknowledged the continued progression of riders coming out of Slovenia each year as more and more head into WorldTour teams despite the fairly low number of elite riders in general.
“Over the last couple of years, we have a lot of guys racing in the WorldTour from Slovenia and it is quite amazing because we have no more than 40 riders racing the nationals including under 23 riders and I think now there are 13 WorldTour riders in the peloton.”
“We only have two continental teams nationally and they do really good races, so I think many of these riders see that now there are a lot of us older guys competing in the WorldTour and they are motivated by this.
“It is great to see Slovenian cycling really progressing like this and I hope it continues like this.”
Photo courtesy of TDWsport.