Kristijan Koren wins men's road race title at Slovenian Road Championships

Kristijan Koren
Kristijan Koren (Image credit: Getty Images)

Kristijan Koren of Adria Mobil has won the elite men’s Slovenian National Road Race after he attacked and went solo with 13 kilometres to go. Neo-pro Matevž Govekar of Bahrain Victorious defended his U23 title while also sprinting for second against BikeExchange-Jayco's Luka Mezgec. 

“I am really happy for the team Adria Mobil because today [we won] with an amazing team [effort] and heavy attacking from two people in the front,” Koren told Cyclingnews. “It's very happy after two years and starting from zero,” he added, referring to his two-year ban from cycling in 2019 after he and fellow Slovenian Borut Božič were implicated in the Operation Alderlass scandal. 

The circuit in Maribor consisted of nine laps with one short, punchy climb. Other WorldTour competitors included Govekar and Domen Novak from Bahrain Victorious, Jan Polanc from UAE Team Emirates, and the third-placed Mezgec from BikeExchange-Jayco. 

However, Adria Mobil, one of Slovenia’s strongest continental teams had strength in numbers (seven to Bahrain’s two). They attacked multiple times throughout the day forcing the elite chasing group to pull them back each time. 

By 20 kilometres to go, the race was fractured, with many riders from smaller teams taking opportunistic digs. By the time the race was in the last gap, almost every rider from Adria Mobil had attacked at least once or had counterattacked. 

Another factor is that the start list for the Slovenian Men’s National Road Championship was lacking in riders due to COVID-19 concerns, with Mohorič, Pogačar, Jan Tratnik, and Primož Roglič all opting not to risk injury or illness ahead of the Tour de France.

The final blow in the race came while Koren attacked with 13 kilometres to go, immediately after the climb on which many others had also tried to push the tempo.

“On the last lap, I attacked and went full gas, fast, fast to the end,” Koren said. He mentioned also that it wasn’t initially clear which Adria rider would strike the final blow; Koren himself had already gone off the front and had also been in a long early breakaway. “I talked on the radio with the director sportive [and he said] now the it's moment because everybody's a little bit tired, so push, push, push Kristijan,” Koren said. 

Govekar, riding only his second race with Bahrain Victorious, confirmed that it was a numbers game.

“Adria had seven riders,” he told Cyclingnews. “It's also that everyone was watching the WorldTour riders. It's hard to go away in the start of the race or maybe until the final. It became impossible because some riders are still fresh and they can go with you. In the end you can make some gap because some other riders already gained fatigue. 

“But we [Bahrain] started racing in the final lap for the podiums, I think. Adria played the numbers, but yeah, that's what everyone would do if they had the numbers. It's a clear choice. In the end, I won the sprint for the second place. It's also super cool that I retain my national under 23 title.” 

The Slovenian National Road Race is Koren’s third-ever win as a professional. It is also his first win in twelve years.

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Kate Wagner is a Chicago-based writer and critic. Her work on cycling can be found in various publications including Procycling. Her newsletter covers cycling in an unconventional fashion, featuring essays, short stories, multimedia works and illustration.

She can be found Tweeting at @derailleurkate

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