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Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools Team)
Former world champs Cunningham and Žakelj strengthen roster
The Unior Tools Team, which finished the 2012 season ranked by the UCI among the top 15 gravity teams, is expanding its focus to include cross country and enduro racing in 2013. The team has signed several new riders, including 2007 junior downhill world champion Ruaridh Cunningham, cross country Olympian Tanja Zakelj and Slovenian junior downhill champion Jure Zabjek.
The new riders join Jess Stone, Ziga Pandur and Nejc Rutar, and together, the team will compete in the full downhill and cross country World Cup circuit, selected international events and also some enduros.
Zakelj was the junior cross country world champion in 2006 and the U23 world champion in 2008. More recently, she finished in the top 10 at the London Olympic Games in 2012.
"Reliable and relaxed people in the team, great sponsors and blue color - for me this is a perfect combination that will help me reach my goals," said Zakelj. "I want to repeat my best results in the World Cup and world championships, or even get higher. Generally this means constantly being among the top 15 riders on the planet."
Cunningham said, "Having ridden a Trek last year as a privateer, the step up to the Unior Tools Team is an amazing opportunity for me. I'm looking forward to working with the team and with their support, I feel I can achieve the goals I've set for myself this season. They include top 20 placing overall in the World Cup and top five placing in BSD."
Stone is back in Europe after some time in New Zealand. "Being able to concentrate on just my riding full time is very important before the start of the new season. I feel focused and ready for a season of some good racing. I'm really looking forward to having new members onboard and being able to learn from them and ride with them this year."
Pandur is aiming for a top 30 in the World Cup and Worlds. "With the support of the team, it feels more than possible. We are always serious when we need to be, but most of the time the atmosphere is relaxed and this is just what works for me."
Rutar, one of the best Slovenian downhillers, will switch his focus to enduros. "The 2013 season will be full of new things for me. I will race enduro - a new and exciting discipline for me. The team itself will also experience a lot of changes, especially with Tanja and cross country on board. The whole thing inspires me and gives me motivation ahead of unknown and new territory."
The team's six riders will be supported by mechanics Rok Jurca and Ben Evans, team manager Tine Mahkovec and PR manager Grega Stopar.
"Cooperation with Tanja Zakelj brings new challenges for us, but also great benefits," said Mahkovec. "It is no secret that Unior is rapidly growing on the bicycle tools market and additional exposure in the cross country scene means a lot. Nejc's decision to focus on the enduro is also very positive and as a team we will continue to give him our best support. Ruaridh, Jess and Ziga are names with large fan base and each of them will bring their share of good results and promotion for the team and our sponsors. Jure is also fast and can do a lot in the junior category."
"All in all, we have amazing team of individuals, all capable of constant and high results, plus a team of hard working mechanics and best possible gear. We just can't wait to get on the road!"
The team is sponsored by title sponsor Unior Tools, a European hand tool manufacturer, entered the bike market a decade ago. Its riders will race Trek Session 9.9 and Trek Superfly SL 29er bikes.