19-year-old Matej Mohoric will face 262.9 kilometres of racing on Sunday as part of Cannondale's line-up
Matej Mohoric, the youngest rider in the WorldTour, is about to depart on his longest journey. On Sunday, he will race the 262.9 kilometres of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“It will be the biggest ride of my life,” the 19-year-old Slovenian told Cycling Weekly. “I’ve done eight hours in training once, but it was only 240 kilometres. I already beat my record in the Amstel Gold Race, 251 kilometres. Now, I’m going to do it again.”
Mohoric laughs. He is relaxed in team Cannondale’s green casual wear. Black and white stripes run vertically down his race kit, no rainbow stripes. He won the Under 23 World Championship road title in Florence last year, one year after winning the junior title, but gave up his right to wear the champion’s jersey by signing a professional contract with Italy’s Cannondale team.
“I don’t know how things will develop,” he said about what type of rider he would become. “I’m just going with the flow and living with the moment.”
The moment includes all three Ardennes Classics. Because Peter Sagan focused on the cobbled classics this year, Cannondale’s eight riders have more freedom in the Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In the Amstel Gold Race, Mohoric took advantage of that and spent the majority of the day in a 10-man escape group.
“The Ardennes Classics should suit me in the future,” Mohoric said. “I’ve been collecting experience for the years to come. I’m trying to learn as much as I can.
“In Amstel, I saw the route, the turns and the incredible atmosphere. It was better to be in the break, so you don’t have to concentrate in the group with guys all around you. I had a good clear view of the race route.
“It also lifted up my morale to be in an escape like that. 250 kilometres for a guy like me, who is only 19, is kind of a big deal.”
The race covered the Cauberg four times. He knows the climb, but remains unfamiliar with the rest of the area. As a junior and under 23 rider, he only rode in the Ardennes five times.
“The Worlds that I won in Valkenburg was a bit like Amstel Gold because we did the Cauberg 100 times!” Mohoric said. “However, I’ve not had that much experience in the Ardennes.”
Mohoric spent his amateur years wining stage races in Italy and Austria, and of course, one world title in Valkenburg and one in Florence.
“I did Paris-Roubaix twice as a junior, but that’s completely different! Honestly, I don’t think that I can do very well given my body size [six-foot-one and 69kg]. But you can never say never!”
In Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, Mohoric remained in the pack. With around 25 kilometres to race, he lost contact.
“I don’t have the speed to go with the top riders. When it comes to power… You go 450 watts steadily and you get dropped. It sucks,” he said. “But compared to my peers in the amateur ranks, I was always good in long hard races. In a couple of years, I’d like to be competitive in these races.”