A season for professional cyclists these days is more grueling than ever, 10 months spent pushing your body to its absolute limit.
It stands to reason then that with the precious time they have off, it would be spent doing as little as possible, right? Wrong.
In the case of Matej Mohoric, he’s been spending his well-earned off-season running, mountain biking and playing basketball and football – his other passions.
The sporty Slovenian would centre his life around sport if he weren’t a professional cyclist, so he sees no reason to alter his mindset just because his passion is also his profession.
The 23-year-old’s arduous season with UAE Team Emirates began in Dubai in January at the Dubai Tour and took him across Europe before ending at the Tour of Guangxi in China in October.
Even with the month or so riders have off to recover, Mohoric revealed cyclists won’t spend too many days without doing activity as they look to stay sharp and prepare for pre-season – much of which starts in December.
“I’ll kind of rest,” Mohoric – who is switching allegiances to Bahrain Merida next season – tells Sport360 when asked if he is finally looking forward to a break after a tiring campaign on the UCI WorldTour.
“We don’t really take more than a couple of days off doing nothing. It’s easier that way to keep the fitness up and the rhythm going.
“Getting some rest at the end, take a month off, but I’ll do some other sports apart from cycling, and then start with the preparations for the new season.
“I will pick up some running, play some basketball, maybe some soccer and do lots of mountain biking, anything that comes along.
“I’m a sporty person anyway so would be doing a lot even if I wasn’t a professional cyclist. It’s been part of my lifestyle over the years, to do sport. I really like it because it’s my job. But I really enjoy doing sports in general.”
It’s been a cracking campaign for the Kranj native, winning a Grand Tour stage for the first time, claiming victory on Stage 7 at the Vuelta a Espana in August.
He was 30th overall in the Vuelta’s General Classification, out of 158 riders, in a race won by Britain’s Chris Froome. He didn’t fare so well at his other Grand Tour entry, finishing 135th at the 100th Giro d’Italia in May.
But other notable achievements included eighth at February’s Trofeo Laigueglia and victory at the Hong Kong Challenge in October ahead of a field of 93.
He was just a second away from winning Slovenia’s National Championships Road Race in June, finishing third behind Orica-Scott’s Luka Mezgec and Grega Bole of Bahrain Merida.
But as he reflects on a progressive campaign, he knows he’s taken a step forward.
“I think it has been a good year for me and for the team. I won a stage at the Vuelta and that was the highlight of the season,” said the 2012 UCI Junior Road World champion.
“Obviously it’s very nice to win a stage. I’m proud of it and I hope for more similar results in the future.”
Senior colleagues at UAE Team Emirates have enjoyed stellar success this season. South Africa’s Louis Meintjes picked up eighth place overall at the Tour de France for a second year running, while Portugal’s Rui Costa won the Abu Dhabi Tour in its first year as a WorldTour sanctioned race.
I think I’m capable of stepping up to that level,” he added. “I’m still young, only 23. I have plenty of time to develop further. I stepped forward this year and I hope I can pick up more momentum next year.
“I am looking forward to doing more Grand Tours. Maybe not next year but in the future for sure, it is one of my aims.”
With a cyclists’ calendar heavier today than ever, it would be easy to see a drop in performance as a long season weaves its way to a conclusion.
But Mohoric maintained his levels and finished the season superbly. He claimed victory in Hong Kong and was sixth in the GC at his final race of the season, in Guangxi.
“We are very happy with the last race. The season finished on a high and we hope there will be more highs next season,” said the Slovenian.
“Obviously the season is very long these days. I’ve had 95 races so it’s pretty tiring. But I managed to keep my motivation high and tried my best and the results came, even at this stage of the season.
“I just kept on riding between races. Doing the efforts my coach tells me and that kept the fitness levels up and allowed me to do my best.”
Mention of compatriot Bole at Bahrain Merida is poignant as Mohoric is moving across the Gulf to join him for 2018.
Mohoric also has a friend who is part of Merida’s management and his contract was also up with the UAE. He is looking forward to a new challenge, even if he admits it was a hard decision to leave his “family”.
“It’s been good times with them and I enjoyed being here with them. The team is like a family to me. The other side is I am looking forward to the future and we will see what it brings.
“It was a hard decision because I’ve really enjoyed myself at this team. It was hard to leave but I have new goals for the future and lots of motivation so I will look forward.
“I’m looking forward to it. It will be something new, something different. I hope it will be as good as it was here in UAE Team Emirates.”
With his contract winding down and the emergence of another Middle East-based team – both UAE Team Emirates and Bahrain Merida were new additions to the UCI roster this year – Mohoric said joining Merida had long been a possible option come the end of the season.
“A good friend of mine is connected with the Bahrain team, so as soon as that team was established I was always thinking of joining them. And now it will happen,” added Mohoric, who will definitely be keeping a close on the UAE and his now former colleagues.
“I am good friends with everybody and will keep in touch with all the staff and riders and stay friends,” he added.
“I was friends with all the team, and I think it’s important to keep the relationships.”
Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella delivered a sensational performance to lead from the start to the chequered flag to secure a convincing victory in the 18th Grand Prix of Sharjah and a fourth UIM F1 H2O World Championship title.
Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC Shenzhen China Team could not recover from a disappointing start from fifth position on the pontoon and the three-time champion had to settle for an eventual third position and the runner-up spot in the World Championship after climbing back from as low as eighth in a largely processional race on Khaled Lagoon.
The Victory Team’s Ahmed Al Hameli benefited from a superb start to hold second for much of the race until he hit technical trouble and his demise opened the door for Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson to snatch second spot.
Thani and Rashed Al Qemzi delivered solid performances to reach the finish in third and ninth positions to cap a memorable afternoon for Team Abu Dhabi, with young Rashed claiming his first World Championship points. Poland’s Bartek Marszalek and Chiappe’s team-mate Peter Morin rounded off the top six. But Thani was given a one-lap penalty for jumping the start some minutes after the podium and slipped to sixth and finished fourth in the championship.
Team Abu Dhabi also added the UIM F1 H2O Teams’ Championship title for the first time since 2015 to the UIM Pole Position Trophy earned on Thursday and the prestigious UIM F2 World Championship secured by young Rashed Al Qemzi in Portugal in October. The last drivers’ title won by the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) was in 2006, by Scott Gillman, the man whom Carella joined in the sport’s all-time Hall of Fame with four world titles.
“It is a very special feeling. I fight this weekend. I wanted to come out with everything,” Carella said. “The work of yesterday paid today and it gave me a perfect place to start.”
“When I heard that Philippe was in eight position I knew I did not want to push too much. I was in perfect control of the race. I was just hoping that nothing would happen.”
Team Abu Dhabi general manager Salem Al Remeithi was ecstatic at having recaptured the team championship after missing out last year. “Our team deserved the success this year,” he said. “This is an achievement for the whole UAE and we are proud to have succeeded in the championship.”
“Our team deserves to be number one and can climb on to the podium with pride. To earn the three victories in the Drivers’ Championship, the Teams’ Championship and the Pole Position Trophy is a fantastic achievement by our team.”
Rashed Al Romaithi and Mohammed Al Mehairbi of Team Abu Dhabi finished the final F4-S Trophy race of the season in eighth and ninth positions, but third overall was sufficient for the Victory Team’s Mansoor Al Mansoori to pip Frenchman Jeremy Brisset to the title. Hungarian veteran Rudolf Mihaldinecz led from start-to-finish to pip young Frenchman Tom Chiappe to the overall Grand Prix victory and the race two win. Al Mehairbi incurred a one-lap penalty for not maintaining his line and duly lost fourth position, although he secured third in the final points’ standings.
Meanwhile, team manager Guido Cappellini could hardly contain his emotion after the dramatic title success.
“Incredible, incredible. To win the last race in the World Championship is the best possible thing you can do to win the title. We had two boats on the podium (until the lap penalty) and Rashed gains his first ever points. For me, it is one incredible day.”
18th GRAND PRIX OF SHARJAH
Nineteen boats lined up on the pontoon for the 45-lap showdown to decide the outcome of a fascinating World Championship. Sami Selio was not able to start, Shaun Torrente used a spare Moore boat after his morning’s practice crash and Erik Edin fitted a near-standard engine after suffering a failure in the morning. Grant Trask and Duarte Benavente also changed engines and started at the rear of the field.
Carella lined up on the pontoon followed by Stark, Marszalek, Al Hameli and Chiappe, with Rashed and Thani Al Qemzi climbing to 10th and 11th. A trouble-free start was crucial and the series leader made it safely through the opening turn to maintain his lead, although Al Hameli managed to find a way to overtake Stark and Marszalek to snatch second position. Chiappe slipped to eighth and Thani and Rashed Al Qemzi held fifth and 14th.
The Team Abu Dhabi driver extended his lead to 3.75 seconds through five laps, as Al Hameli, Stark, Andersson and Thani Al Qemzi rounded off the top five. Torrente began his climb through the field and snatched 11th and Rashed Al Qemzi moved up to 13th, but Chiappe continued to slip further behind and trailed the leader by 24.58sec after eight laps. Francesco Cantando and Matthew Palfreyman (electrical) both retired.
The leaders held station through 13 laps and Carella’s lead edged out to 4.80sec, as Rashed Al Qemzi moved up to 12th after Torrente withdrew his Moore with engine issues and returned to the pits. The Italian’s lead grew to 7.26sec after 18 laps, as the leading duo gradually pulled clear of Stark, Andersson and Al Qemzi and Chiappe’s title dream began to fade. Mike Szymura and Cédric Deguisne (engine) joined the growing list of retirements.
At the halfway point, Carella’s lead was reduced to 3.95sec as he continue to close in and pass the tail enders, but Stark’s brave run ended on lap 29 when the Swede retired with a broken propeller blade and Andersson inherited third behind Carella and Al Hameli, with Al Qemzi and Barszalek moving up to fourth and fifth and Chiappe creeping in front of Filip Roms and into sixth before the Finn pulled out on lap 34.
With 10 laps to go, Andersson passed Al Hameli to snatch second position, but Carella’s lead had grown to 23.68sec. Chiappe continued to climb and he overtook Marszalek to secure fifth and he snatched fourth when Al Hameli slipped out of contention.
There was no last-minute drama for Carella and the triumphant Team Abu Dhabi driver reached the chequered flag to secure the world title by the margin of 16.03 seconds, with Andersson, Thani Al Qemzi and Chiappe rounding off the top four and Rashed Al Qemzi clinching his first points in ninth. But Thani was given a one-lap penalty for a jump start some minutes after the race and slipped to sixth, with Chiappe inheriting third.
Friday morning’s one-hour practice session marked the last opportunity to get the boat set-up perfect for the race. Several drivers placed more importance on it than others and Marit Strømøy carded the fastest lap of 46.95sec after running 31 tours of the course. Stark was second, but Rashed and Thani Al Qemzi ran their DACs for just 14 and six laps and were classified in third and eighth positions. Series leader Carella ran at a slow pace for six laps but took no risks on the course.
Selio and Marszalek sat out the session, but Matthew Palfreyman ran for a short time to test out the Dragon before his GP race debut and suffered ongoing engine issues. Grant Trask was towed off the course after stopping with technical woes and a spectacular spin and flip involving Shaun Torrente’s Victory DAC brought out a second yellow flag with 18 minutes of the session to run. Erik Stark also encountered minor electrical issues and was towed back to the pits.
F4-S – RACE 2
Rudolf Mihaldinecz nosed ahead of Mohammed Al Mehairbi and Tom Chiappe at the start pontoon, as title rivals Mansoor Al Mansoori and Jeremy Brisset started in fifth and fourth positions. The 57-year-old Hungarian began to extend his advantage as Chiappe and Al Mansoori moved ahead of Al Mehairbi through the opening turns.
The race developed into a procession for the next few laps until Louise Vella found a way past Brisset on lap 15 to snatch fifth and the leader began to lap the tail-enders. Mihaldinecz survived a scare on lap 20 to secure victory over Chiappe by the margin of 9.11 seconds and third place was sufficient for Al Mansoori to claim the world title from Brisset and Al Mehairbi, but the latter was docked one lap for a lane infringement and Vella moved up to fourth place.
Brisset managed to keep his title hopes alive by taking the wheel of Corentin Guesnel’s Maverick ASV for the final race of the season. It gave the Frenchman the opportunity to try and pip Al Mansoori to the title – 11 points separated them at the start of the day. Chiappe topped the times in the morning’s practice session in a time of 50.18sec, with Wu Bingchen and Vella in second and third and Al Mehairbi and Al Romaithi classified in fifth and eighth.
The timed trials took on extra significance on this occasion. Mihaldinecz spoiled the party with the pole position-winning lap of 50.11sec. Al Mehairbi slotted into second and Chiappe was third but title rivals Al Mansoori and Brisset qualified fifth and fourth, respectively.
2017 Grand Prix of Sharjah – race result:
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 45 laps
2. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden @16.03sec
3. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team @20.06sec
4. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze F1 Team @20.68sec
5. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team @27.36sec
6. Thani Al Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi L1
7. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team L1
8. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team L1
9. Rashed Al Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi L2
10. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team L2
11. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden L2
Ahmed Al Hameli (UAE) Victory Team DNF
Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team DNF
Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden DNF
Mike Szymura (DEU) Emirates Racing Team DNF
Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team DNF
Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team DNF
Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team DNF
Matthew Palfreyman (GBR) Emirates Racing Team DNF
Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team DNS
Béranger Robert (FRA) Maverick F1 Team DNS
2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – final positions:
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 90pts
2. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 71pts
3. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 49pts
4. Thani Al Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 34pts
5. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 32pts
6. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 30pts
6. Ahmed Al Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 30pts
8. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 28pts
9. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze F1 Team 23pts
10. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 21pts
11. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 15pts
12. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 12pts
13. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 9pts
14. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 8pts
15. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 7pts
16. Mike Szymura (DEU) Emirates Racing Team 4pts
17. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 2pts
17. Rashed Al Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 2pts
Defending champions Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan were the highest-profile casualties in the opening session of the first day’s play at the Dubai World Superseries Finals at Hamdan Sports Complex on Wednesday, falling to compatriots Huang Yaqiong and Yu Xiaohan.
The Women’s Doubles Group A match turned out to be a tense encounter, with World champions Chen/Jia pulling level after trailing 4-10 in the third.
The lead switched hands late in the game, and the defending champions had their noses ahead at 19-18, but the challengers were sharp at the end and wrapped up the victory 21-14 16-21 21-19 in exactly an hour.
“It’s always difficult playing your compatriots,” said Huang Yaqiong. “We train together all the time and know each other’s game. We’re still getting used to the conditions here. We’ve had a good year; the Dubai World Superseries Finals has the best pairs in the world and winning here would be a big accomplishment.”
In another match in the same group, All England champions Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee (Korea) rode roughshod over a pair they’ve beaten five times before, Japan’s Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto.
The Japanese stayed close until midway in the opening game, after which the Koreans pressed ahead; the second game was one-way traffic with Chang/Lee completing the rout 21-16 21-10.
“When we saw our group, we knew we were in for some tough matches,” said Chang Ye Na. “It’s a good feeling to start with a victory and it gives us confidence for the matches ahead. It’s been a while since we’ve won a Superseries, and we’re hoping to rediscover the winning feeling. But there’s still some way to go before we can think of that. There are some strong pairs in our group; we’re just happy that we had a quick win today.”
Group B saw Japan’s Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota – winners of the Most Improved Player of the Year award on Monday – ease past Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Ya Ching/Wu Ti Jung 21-13 21-13.
The top two seeds in Men’s Doubles also notched straight-games victories. Indonesia’s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo – winners of the Male Player of the Year award – were on a rampage against Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding in Group A.
The Danes weren’t allowed to catch a breath from the opening point with the Indonesians playing at breakneck pace and shooting to a 13-2 lead.
The Danes fared marginally better in the second game but Gideon and Sukamuljo were never threatened, as they closed it out in 29 minutes: 21-6 21-16.
“The Danes are tall and their attack is quite steep; our defence was tested today. Usually it’s difficult to find rhythm early in the tournament, but today we were able to get going from the start,” said Gideon.
Second seeds Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (Denmark) faced a much harder challenge in Group B from Japan’s Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi, who were on level terms until 18 in the opening game before their challenge fell apart.
In the same group, World champions Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan weathered a strong challenge from Chinese Taipei’s Lee Jhe-Huei/Lee Yang, 21-19 24-26 21-14.
Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei started his campaign in Men’s Singles on an auspicious note, cutting apart resistance from Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long, 21-14 21-13.
In Women’s Singles, two-time Dubai runner-up Sung Ji Hyun was a victim of her inconsistent display against Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon. The Korean was unable to string together sufficiently long spells of her characteristic style of error-free badminton, and the Thai gained in confidence after a close first game to take the match 21-19 21-16.
Denmark Open champions Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet (Hong Kong) and Japan Open champions Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping (China) enjoyed victories over Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto and Malaysia’s Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing respectively.
Play continues today until 9pm. The sessions tomorrow and Friday are from 9am-12noon, and 1pm-9pm. The semi-finals will be played on Saturday from 10am-3pm and 4pm-9pm. The finals will be played on Sunday from 1pm -8pm.
Only the eight top-ranked players from the BWF Destination Dubai Rankings in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles have earned a place at the prestigious tournament, which sees them compete for a share of a US$1million prize pool.
To qualify for Dubai the players had to amass points from twelve MetLife BWF World Superseries Tournaments held around the world throughout the year.