Britain's Stone joins downhill mountain bike team
The Unior Tools Team announced its full roster for the 2012 season. The Slovenian-based UCI-registered downhill team includes five racers from three countries. Jessica Stone of Great Britain is joining her compatriot Harry Heath, Slovenian riders Nejc Rutar and Ziga Pandur and Maria Michalogiannaki of Greece.
The 2011 season was a success for the team with top 20 finishes in the UCI Downhill World Cup, top 10 results in the iXS European Cup overall standings and other podiums throughout Europe.
"Now we are aiming higher. We want to be in the top 15 teams in the World Cup and get the UCI Elite status for next season," said Team Manager Tine Mahkovec.
The team's new rider, Jess "the Rolling" Stone, is the 2010 British National Champion and a top rider in the World Cup. The 22-year-old Stone said, "With the support of the team, I will be able to improve on the results I have gained in previous years. I aim for top 10 in the World Cup, which I think I will be capable of attaining. I think that the team is an important platform for me to work from - as a racer, you need that support to push you further, so I am looking forward to this season and progressing further into the top ranks of this sport."
Stone will race the British Downhill Series and her national championships. "It would be amazing to get another National Champ's title, so I will work hard," she said.
Heath's best 2011 result was an 18th place at the World Cup. He is heading into his second year with the team. "2011 was a great step up with getting onto the Unior team and that support helped me hit some long term goals of mine," said Heath. "To be working with the same amazing guys will again make a big difference as we know how each other works, so when we get to the first race it'll be down to racing."
"Like every off season, I have found new things to improve on and it will be great to put them to work racing this year. Also I will be racing more of the British National series including National Championships which I'm really looking forward to as its always good to race at home."
Greek champion Michalogiannaki is training hard to improve her best World Cup result from last season. "This year I plan to race the complete World Cup for the first time and get constant top results on the Sunday finals. Unlike the last year, I had a chance to ride my downhill bike more and with my other training, I'm ready for the season."
Slovenian riders Rutar and Pandur are also returning to the team. They placed 30th and 35th overall at the Worlds and got top 10 overall placings in the iXS European Cup.
"Personal goals are very high, but with the right approach they are realistic. The season starts early, but due to work with top cycling coach Robert Pintaric, I will be ready for South Africa," said the highly motivated Nejc.
Pandur has a similar training program and goals for the season. "I will race the complete World Cup for the first time, so there was no real off-season break for us. We have to be in top shape soon, especially for the course in Pietermaritzburg." The first World Cup is in mid-March.
The team will race Trek Session 9.9 bikes.
2012 Unior Tools Team
Harry Heath (GBr)
Maria Michalogiannaki (Gre)
Ziga Pandur (Slo)
Nejc Rutar (Slo)
Jessica Stone (GBr)
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