Biggest stars of Tour of Slovenia
Who is the biggest celebrity cyclists that has appeared in the 30-years of Tour of Slovenia?
When they appeared at the start, some of us sighed and wondered with satisfaction. Live, up close, we were introduced to those that we could only dream about before and follow them on TV broadcasts and in other media. These are the current and past cycling stars that raced in Slovenia, some quite a few times.
Here, of course, subjectivity wins over objectivity. Roglič, Pogačar, Mohorič, Nose, Mahorič, Premužič and other Slovenians are a special super category. This time we remember cyclists from the rest of the world.
2011 world champion Mark Cavendish is the third-winningest cyclist with 161 wins, and he can quickly jump to second. The first on the list, the legendary Eddy Merckx, is untouchable, but he and the Belgian share the number of victories at the Tour de France, 34 that is. Mark also has 16 victories at the Giro (at the time of writing, op. a.), 3 at the Vuelta, a victory at Milan-San Remo and many others. The debut in 2016 Tour of Slovenia was followed by performances in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but without a more visible result. The second place at the finish in Novo mesto 2017 is his greatest achievement on Slovenian roads.
Four-time world champion, two-time Olympic time-trial gold, three-time first in Roubaix, celebrated in San Remo, on the Adriatic coast, in Flanders... Of course we’re talking about Fabian Cancellara, who got to know Slovenian roads in 2001. At that time, the twenty-year-old Swiss did not finished the race, as he had DNF on the last stage with finish in Novo mesto.
Two-time Giro di’Italia winner ('13, '16), winner of seven stages on the Tour ('14) and three stages of the Vuelta ('10), as well as the winner of the races from Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic Sea and the Milan-San Remo race, Vincenzo Nibali is one of the most successful riders on our race. He competed three times, twice with lots of success. On his first Tour of Slovenia in 2007 he won that Beljak and prestigious Vršič stages, but Tomaž Nose grabbed the overall victory. He returned for the overall title in 2010, when he celebrated at Krvavec. Unfortunately, he didn’t finish the race in 2011.
The WorldTour director of the Astana Qazaqstan Team, Alexander Vinokourov, twice represented the Kazakh national team at the first races in Slovenia in 1994 and 1996. Even then, he showed incredible talent and fighting spirit. In the second performance, he especially drew attention to himself with breakaways and won intermediate sprints in Ljubljana, Medvode and Kranj, when he defeated the long-time and also current race director Bogdan Fink three times; he also won the mountains competition. He went down in history with victories at Liège - Bastogne - Liège ('10, '05), Tour of Spain ('06) and four stage victories, Olympic gold ('12), Paris- Nice ('02, '03) and four stage wins at the Tour de France ('03, '05, '10), victories at the Amstel Gold Race ('03), Tour of Switzerland ('03), Critérium du Dauphiné ('99 ) and four stage victories.
List of retired stars: 2007 and 2004 Giro winners Danilo Di Luca and Damiano Cunego, Filippo Pozzato with five appearances and two stage wins, Sonny Colbrelli, European champion and Roubaix winner, Stefano Zanini, winner of 2001 stage to Beltinci, 2008 Tour winner Carlos Sastre, Vuelta 2013 winner Chris Horner, Sweden's best cyclist Magnus Bäckstedt and sports director of Spanish team Kern Pharma Mikel Nieve.
Riders who raced in Slovenia in the past and are still active pros include Elia Viviani, Michael Matthews with three different podiums in Slovenia ('14), 2009 winner Jakob Fuglsang, Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan, Irish champion Sam Bennett, who celebrated in Slovenia twice ('07), one of the Dutch arrows Dylan Groenewegen, who reigned twice in Rogaška Slatina ('18, '22).
The list is extensive and includes one of the Yates brothers, Simon, Colombian superstar Rigoberto Urán, who celebrated at Celje Castle in 2018 and finished behind Roglič, Matteo Trentin and Aleksandr Vlasov.
We conclude the list with two more winners of the three-week races. To the last winners of the Giro, Jai Hindley, who competed on our race in 2018, and Egan Bernal, who won the Tour and the Giro in the 2019 season, and we followed him here in 2014 - in the end in the white shirt.
How many Tour winners have competed in Slovenia? And how many Giro and Vuelta winners? And world champions, including Filippo Ganna with two crowns at the time trial world championships ('20, '21)?
Let's do the math. "Our" riders won the Tour de France twice, the Tour of Italy four times and the Tour of Spain three times. With the Slovenian five laurels of Pogačar and Roglič, a total of fourteen. And won another 71 and 14 Slovenian stage victories on the Tour, so a total of 85; 69 and 4 Slovenians, a total of 73, at the Giro and 28 and 12 Slovenians, a total of 40, at the Vuelta. An impressive number of 198 victories in the big three! And a substantial Slovenian contribution of 30 victories by Roglič (13), Pogačar (9), Mohorič (4), Polanc (2), Mezgec (1) and Božič (1).
Did I missed any name? How would you rank them in terms of career achievements?
How much will this year's participants in the 29th race change the totals from the last paragraph? We hope to increase the total of 14 overall victories and 198 stage victories in three-day races by cyclists who have raced on the Slovenian roads in the thirty-year history of our biggest cycling race.