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Zakelj overcomes serious accident to return to racing with MBK Orbea

Under 23 women's cross country champion Tanja Zakelj, 20, has returned to racing this spring despite a serious accident after the final World Cup race of the 2008 season last September. While at home helping with a project in Slovenia, she accidently had two of her fingers on her left cut off. A third one was also badly damaged.

She was immediately transported to the hospital by helicopter and had her fingers surgically reattached in a five-hour operation. Recovery was painfully slow with several complications, but with the help of her her coach and everyone around, she completed many long days of physiotherapy in time to resume an adjusted training program in February.

Her former team, MBK Crni Vrh gathered new sponsors, registered with the UCI and reinvented itself as MBK Orbea.

Despite the doubts of her coach Luka Zele and team manager Primoz Strancar, Zakelj returned to racing last weekend at the Internazionali d'Italia - Trofeo Giorgio Senini. She exceeded all expectations and finished nineth overall and first in under 23 category, only 6:01 down.

Zakelj is now looking forward to defending her rainbow jersey in Australia.

MBK Orbea Team for 2009: Tanja Zakelj, Nina Homovec, Luka Mezgec, Luka Kodra, Blaz Znidarsic, Matjaz Budin, Nejc Rutar (DH) Staff: Primoz Strancar (team manager), Luka Zele (coach), Marko Galjot (mechanic)