Unior Tools Team, the Slovenian gravity UCI mountain bike squad, has big ambitions for 2011 with the addition of two new signings: United Kingdom rider Harry Heath and top Slovenian Nejc Rutar. In total, Unior Tools will sponsor five riders from three countries - four downhill and one four cross.
The team began with the objective of supporting the best Slovenian riders, but the team grew over the winter into an international UCI mountain bike team with riders from Britain, Greece and Slovenia. For the second consecutive year, the team will race World Cups.
The biggest signing is the 19-year-old Heath, who finished sixth at the 2009 junior world championships in Canberra, Australia, and finished 42nd twice on the World Cup in 2010.
Heath plans to step it up for 2011. "I want solid top 20 results at all World Cups. Last year I saw Unior Tools Team in the pits and could see they have got a great program with everything accounted for: from full mechanical support to a professional team area, all of which takes stress off my mind so I can just get down to the racing. This is a big advantage for me."
Team manager Tine Mahkovec explained how Heath came onto the team. "The idea was developed last season as part of the business strategy to promote Unior Tools in the UK. Harry is managed by Martin Whiteley's 23 Degrees, always a good reference for a rider. We saw what Harry can do and realize that he could also have a positive influence on other riders."
Top Slovenian downhill rider and national champion Nejc Rutar also joins the team after having travelled at times with the team in the past. He first wants to improve his best results in the World Cup. "Last year my best result was 51st place in Champery, [Switzerland]. That needs to be improved. I'm happy to have good support and a rider like Harry on the team. I believe he will motivate all of us to ride better and get good results."
Three others are returning from last year's line-up. Žiga Pandur is getting very close to Rutar on all downhill events, Neža Knez is looking for more top eight results in four cross and Maria Michalogiannaki, Greek national champ, will pursue top 20 finishes in downhill races.
The team will send its five riders to the World Cups and some iXS European Cup events and other national and UCI Class events. All of its riders are strong candidates for national teams racing at the world and European championships.
The team will spend some time together in Slovenia when not travelling to races. In particular the riders will be in Kranjska Gora, the venue of the 2009 European Championships. "I've ridden Kranjska Gora before and was blown away by how cool the place was," said Heath. "This is a place I'm looking forward to spending more time riding mid-season. It will be a perfect training ground in between World Cups, so that is when I'll be there."
Other team sponsors include Trek Bicycles, SRAM, adidas Eyewear, SixSixOne, Muc-Off and Edelweiss RS.
2011 Unior Tools Team
Harry Heath (GBr) (downhill)
Nejc Rutar (Slo) (downhill)
Žiga Pandur (Slo) (downhill)
Neža Knez (Slo) (four cross)
Maria Michalogiannaki (Gre) (downhill)
Tine Mahkovec (Team manager)
Rok Jurca (Mechanic)
Grega Stopar (Media Manager)