Circuit de la Sarthe next chance for Slovenian sprinter
Jure Kocjan has been knocking at the door of victory all season long for Team Type 1 – sanofi aventis. The 26-year-old Slovenian sprinter has scored two second places and a fourth at the MontePaschi-Eroica race over the gravel roads in Tuscany in the opening months of the season.
This week’s Circuit de la Sarthe, which starts Tuesday in France, presents Kocjan with another chance to deliver a breakthrough European victory for the team.
“I’ve had a lot of top-5 placings, but I all need is a little bit of luck to get the victory,” Kocjan told VeloNews in a phone interview. “The season’s been going good. All I am missing is the win. I hope it comes soon.”
Kocjan almost won in Sunday’s Flèche d’Emeraude in France with second place to Tony Gallopin (Cofidis). He rode in an early 100km breakaway and then recovered to play his card in the sprint.
Team Type 1 bounced back from the devastating theft of all the team bikes, equipment and tools during a break-in of team vehicles at the Coppi e Bartali last month. Less than a week after the crime, the squad was back in action with aggressive racing.
Kocjan is the team’s best chance for victory in the sprints. The sixth-year pro raced the past two seasons with Italian outfit Carmiooro, winning a handful of races, including the GP Pino Cerami in Belgium, before joining TT1 this year. The team is hoping for an elusive win at the four-day, five-stage Sarthe race, where Laszlo Bodrogi will be the team’s GC hope.
“Jure has great form right now and is coming to the Circuit de la Sarthe as a key member of the team,” sport director Vassili Davidenko told VeloNews in an e-mail. “With his speed and experience we have seen him on the podium and in key moves a lot this year. At Sarthe, he’s set up to take the sprints and get us to the top step.”
Kocjan is a tall, powerful sprinter who said he prefers a long, uphill drag to the finish line. So far this season, he’s been counting on Slovenian teammate Aldo Ino Ilesic to hitch rides on other set-up trains to try to scrape up a victory.
“I prefer uphill or rising sprint finishes. I don’t know why, but I am better in this style of sprinting. On the flat sprint, maybe the speed is a little bit too high for me. I am tall, so maybe I am not so aerodynamic and maybe that costs me a little bit of speed,” Kocjan explains. “On the uphill sprints, you have to be strong. That’s when I am at my best.”
Kocjan also isn’t afraid to work into breakaways, especially on hilly courses when he can sneak into a move and win a bunch sprint out of a reduced group. That’s what he did when he won two stages at the Quinghai Lake tour in China in 2009, when he also finished fifth overall.
Kocjan says the team is working together well in its first major European season, and despite the setback of the break-in, the squad is gaining confidence ahead of the season’s most important races. The team is set for the Tour of Turkey, the Tour of California, Philadelphia and the Tour de Suisse.
“The team is really good, I like it. It’s well-organized, it’s based in Italy. The race program is good and we’re strong coming into the big events,” he said. “I still hope the victory will be coming soon and we will be successful in the big events. We hope to be good at all those races.”
Kocjan says he’s also finding the experience of riding with teammates who race with Type-1 diabetes rather intriguing. Six of the team’s squad race with the condition, but Kocjan says he doesn’t see much of a difference.
“They are pros like any other. They have to special care of what they eat and monitor their levels, but they are professional and hard-working like everyone else,” he said. “It’s nice on this team, because you send a different message around the world. Before I got on this team, I didn’t know anything about diabetes. It’s important what we are doing.”
Kocjan hails from the Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana, where he used to race mountain bikes before turning to the road scene at 19. After knocking around some Slovenian teams, he joined Carmioori in 2009.
“We are a small group of Slovenian riders, but when we see each other, we speak at the races and we train together when we are at home,” he said. “The sport is growing in Slovenia, but it’s not very big. There, football and skiing are the big sports. When I was young, I was good at endurance sports and started to mountain bike race. I switched to road racing. I just want to train hard and do the best I can.”
Kocjan says he’s hoping he can deliver a win for the team to pay them back for their support. This week’s Sarthe tour would be an ideal opportunity.
“I don’t feel pressure from the team. They do not put pressure on us. They just want us to race and do our best,” he said. “Of course, I want to win.”