The national Slovenian road race champion in June, 'cross national champion in July, Luka Mezgec has completed a hat-trick of titles in 2017 by taking out the 'cross title
Signed to Orica-Scott to bolster its lead-out train from 2016, the 29-year-old enjoyed his most successful season since 2014 on the road, also claiming the Veenendaal Veenendaal Classic. While the road remains Mezgec's primary focus, he explained that once he claimed the mountain bike national title, he set his off-season sights on the 'hat-trick'.
"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," Mezgec said. "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."
Mezgec added that upon winning his first road title, after two silver medals, his thoughts turned to another mountain bike title having started his cycling career racing off-road and enjoyed success before his full-time switch.
"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 said. "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.
"I raced MTB for four and a half years before I came to the road so I have a good background in this. 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."
Although Mezgec has stamped his authority on the Slovenian road, mountain and 'cross championships in 2017, he believes cycling continues to come on in leaps and bounds in his country. As the success of Primoz Roglic across the last two seasons suggests.
"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," he noted. 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."
Yet to race in January on the road, Mezgec is again likely to start his season in February, turning his attention to helping out the team before his title defences later in the year.