Brajkovič Comes to Town
Following a humble start in 1993, the race has gradually built its reputation. It hasn't grown so much in size (the budget is still only EUR 250,000) but the organisers have worked hard to improve its quality. One of the benefits is the mid-June date, after the Giro d'Italia and before the Tour de France. This year, as least five Pro Tour teams will join the race, including the undisputed star, Jani Brajkovič of the Astana team. He will aim to win but concedes that he will not be at peak performance and will only take the race as preparation for the Tour de France. He is also well aware that he is far from being the only favourite, which he previously experienced in 2005, the last time he took part. Other Pro Tour teams include Lampre, Liquigas, GreenEdge and Saxo Bank.
"It definitely feels good to be back. I will not be in top form but will do my best. There will be several interesting stages, including the second stage in my native Bela krajina," said Brajkovič.
The race will end with a time trial in Ljubljana. According to Bogdan Fink, President of the organising committee, this has been done deliberately to keep the race open until the last moment, which hasn't often the case in the past. Another reason is that the time trial, on a Sunday afternoon in the capital, should attract many spectators. Ahead of the main race, recreational cyclists (subject to prior registration) will have the chance to test the same course. Last year's experiment showed that the best amateurs were surprisingly competitive.
The third stage will be equally interesting but will take place a little further from the public eye, in the mountains of Pokljuka and Soriška planina, which the cyclists will have to pass twice.
Fink is delighted that the event is not in jeopardy despite the difficult economic situation: "Our goal is to make our race similar to the Giro and Tour in the sense that it should be a tourist product of the whole country. It is in our plans to make the race a little longer but we should be aware that this is only our 19th race and we are striving to add something new and better each year."