Jaka Primožič – cyclist

When you first see him, he seems like a perfectly normal high-school student. Dressed like others. At first glance, I would say, he leads a perfectly normal life. His grades are average, the computer his priority, perhaps he likes listening to Justin Bieber, or hates him, can’t wait for the new Star Wars movie to hit the cinemas. And sports … if there’s nothing else to do. But when you get to know him better, you realize that he’s the total opposite. Education is a must, the computer is mainly used for cycling purposes, he’s never heard about Justin Bieber except if he is someone who was once fourth on the Vuelta. He has Star Wars in every race. And sports … for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He became more well-known after last year’s world championship in Qatar where he was 8th and 9th. An excellent, superb result, but with a bitter aftertaste.

LUKAZOJA: Qatar. Chronometer 9th place, road ride 8th place. Pure success, or is there an aftertaste?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Of course, both races were a success, but not so much to me as they were to others. I know what I’m capable of and how much work I put in. Unfortunately, I got ill at the European championship, which cost me my excellent form. After a 10-day rest, I started training again. As far as the chronometer goes, I am happy with my achievement since the cycling trail didn’t suit me as did the one at the European championship. I’m quite disappointed about the road race since we as a team were able to achieve much more, as much as three rankings in the top 10.

LUKAZOJA: What were your expectations before the championship? Especially in the light of your illness?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I went to the world championship with mixed feelings because I didn’t know what kind of shape I was in. I only trained for 14 days and after a 10-day rest, I was kind of »afraid« of competing. But because of that, I was a lot more relaxed as I had lower expectations.

LUKAZOJA: What did you think about last year’s world championship organization?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: It was amazing. I do not think that any world championship has been so well-organized. Everything went according to plan, the accommodation in the hotel was also amazing. But like every competitor, I was bothered by the fact that there were no spectators.

LUKAZOJA: Did you have any contact with our members or other celebrities?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Yes, of course, they were in the same hotel. We talked a bit about how it is to race in those kind of conditions because some racers were already on the same trail as the professionals.

LUKAZOJA: What were you doing on the last evening of the championship before going home?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Haha, you knew just what to ask .:’D I came to the hotel at around 7 pm since I still had doping control. First, the mechanic and I put the bikes into bags since we were leaving as early as 3 am. After that, I went to dinner and then to the shopping center with a skating ring in the middle. Then we went back to the hotel where we were fooling around a bit, and watched our race once again.

LUKAZOJA: After major matches there is almost always a lot of talk about wrong tactics on various websites. What do you think – should this change?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Of course, in Slovenia as well as in the rest of the world, everyone’s the best trainer in front of a TV. I didn’t like the tactics from the start because I knew that there would only be a sprint of multiple little groups. Luckily, in one of those little groups there were three Slovenes, including me, and we were all counting on the sprint of Žiga Jerman. During the whole race, Horvat and I were covering the escapes and pulling the group, but for the last loop we simply ran out of energy. I had bad luck because the escape with the future winner didn’t work out. I wasn’t able to do the jump and I was expecting it from the other two guys, but they were too exhausted. So I tried during the whole loop to catch up but I simply couldn’t do it. 2 km before the finish line, we accepted that there will be a sprint, we created a train, but in the last curves before the finish line, the group increased, and Jerman, as the main sprinter, remained on the other side. I tried to pull as much as I could into the finish line, but Horvat and Jerman failed to organize. It could be a lot worse, so I’m not disappointed.

LUKAZOJA: A few km before the finish line, when two Danish escaped, it looked like you couldn’t connect. Did you have such instructions or did you run out of energy?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: They ran away just after the start of the last loop when I covered the jump, so I was not able to connect. I looked back, if any of us were ready to attack, but it looked like there was no more energy. After their jump, I immediately went to the head of the group to connect and even attack, but I wasted myself too much during the race.

LUKAZOJA: This is your first year in the elite. What do you think of this change? How pleased are you with the spring part of the season? Which big races await you before the end of this season?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: The change is huge, I got used to earlier categories easier, the members’ races are much longer and faster, so it is a lot more difficult. I’m quite happy with the start of the season, except for the health problems, which lasted through the whole of March, so in some races I wasn’t able to do my best. The worst was the Istrian spring, but the season is long, and I can still make up for everything. Maybe I did not reach a prominent ranking, but my aim was to finish all races. In the last race of the spring part of Belgrade-Banja Luka, I managed to get my first UCI points with sixth place. But the most important races this year are yet to come, the race of peace for the Cup of Nations U23 in the Czech Republic in the first days of June, the race in Slovenia, DP chronometer and DP road race, domestic GP Kranj and as the most important race of the season for boys to 23 years of age Tour de l’Avenir in France at the end of August. Of course I must not forget the September S in Bergen, Norway. There will be many opportunities to prove myself, I just have to continue to be calm and focused.

LUKAZOJA: After a month you’ll start the race at the biggest Slovenian cycling event, the 24th Tour of Slovenia. How did this happen? Sava is not a continental team. What are the expectations?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I am very happy to have been selected for the race in Slovenia where we act as a National team. A few of our cyclers and a few other Slovenian clubs will be there. At the beginning of the racing season in Slovenia this was not the plan, but after we learned that Eurosport will broadcast live, we simply could not miss the race. I expect a very difficult race as there will be 5 WT teams at the start. I hope that I will be racing as well as possible. But I don’t know how challenging it will be, therefore I can’t speak about the outcome.

LUKAZOJA: What do trainings look like in your club? Do you train alone besides having team trainings? Who makes your workouts?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: The training begins at around 1 or 2 pm because of school, so when I come home I immediately go cycling and, if possible, do a few km before the club training if we have one. This is usually a training with a car or something similar. After the training, if I have time, I go for another ride. We don’t actually have trainings together, max. once a week, so I mostly plan trainings by myself or with my father, and we usually make the plan according to school obligations.

LUKAZOJA: Are you happy with the support in Sava?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Of course! I have been in Sava from the beginning and it’s my mother club. I feel at home here, I get along with everyone great and they help me with everything (even school). Maybe they have more money in other clubs, but that’s not my motto, we too have quality races and I am really grateful to Sava because they helped me get to this level: to Matej, in juniors, and to Matjaž, now in the elites.

LUKAZOJA: The eternal question by us ”amateurs”: The bike that you get in the club. Would you, if you had the chance, pick a different one? Or, are you satisfied with the one that you get?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Of course I’m satisfied with what I get. Usually I change certain components, so that the bike is lighter and more suitable for me. Of course, there are a lot of bikes which I would like to have.

LUKAZOJA: How did you even start cycling?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I started cycling in 2012, as a boy. But I really started to be interested in cycling way before, because my friend was doing it, but I began later due to other hobbies.

LUKAZOJA: What were you doing before cycling?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Before cycling I played football for 5 years, basketball for 2, I even tried athletics. I played the keyboard for some time, but realized that that’s not for me.

LUKAZOJA: When did you realize that’s not a hobby anymore and that cycling could be your living?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Since I started cycling I was dreaming of becoming a professional someday, but those were more dreams than reality until last season. Since last year, I find it achievable.

LUKAZOJA: Most people know, or maybe some don’t, that your father is a top-notch ultra-marathon runner, and even less people know that he took part in the World Championship in Halfironman and Ironman. Does he help you with your experiences in any way?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Of course! At the exact time when I became serious, we started planning my training sessions together, and long story short, the whole life. When I started, he told me a lot since I didn’t know anything. He has been living a sport life for a long time already, so I listened to him and he was kind of an influence for me. I followed his example a little, and watched what he did, and it was a lot easier for me because of it … We still plan all sessions together and talk about everything. I owe a big part of my present success to him, and I am very grateful for that.

LUKAZOJA: If I would offer you any one win in the next years, which one would you choose? Tour, Giro, Vuelta, a classic, a World Championship, the title of an Olympic Champion, or something else? What do you currently find the most prestigious? Or maybe the hardest to achieve?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: That would definitely be the Tour, but I rather not think about it too much because the road to there is long, I still have a lot to learn. I find the Tour to be the most prestigious, we all watch it, everyone knows who won it, but not everybody knows who won all the previously mentioned races. Every race is something special, but the Tour is one of a kind.

LUKAZOJA: How many kilometers do you do a year?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Every year more because I’m growing up. The year before last, I made a little over 16,000, and last year around 19,000.

LUKAZOJA: What do you do on longer races? Besides racing? Do you observe your surroundings, think about something nice, or are you totally focused on the race?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Of course I try to be focused on the race, but I always see a good car beside the road, or something interesting. This year on the longer races there is also a lot of time to talk with other cyclists from the whole peloton. I race in different locations, so there is always something interesting. This is why cycling is really something special.

LUKAZOJA: Free time. Do you even have it, and what do you do?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I don’t have it much, since I’m still in the 3rd year of high-school, program for sportspeople.  In my free time I’m with my girlfriend or with my friends, and if I’m alone I always like to watch a movie or read, watch car magazines and shows.

LUKAZOJA: Do you have any problems at school because of cycling? Do they support you when you’re absent so much?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I have a few problems because of my absence. It’s difficult catching up with all the things at school when you’re not there, but there are no major problems. This school year I already did a lot during the winter, in the dead season, and now I’m still ahead of my schoolmates with grades. The school is really supportive to sportspeople.

LUKAZOJA: Are you bored with the constant travelling? Do you even follow where you’re going? Do you maybe have enough of the constant packing?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I like closing my travelling bag at the end of the season, but I have no problems travelling during the season. I like travelling and I go to each race happily. My travelling bag is always unzipped in my room so that I can just put things into it and take them out.

LUKAZOJA: Last year you joined a few recreational matches in Slovenia. This year, if I’m not mistaken, you weren’t on any of them. Is it because of the rules, or do you simply not have enough time?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Recreational matches were just a good training, because in normal training you can’t force yourself so much.

LUKAZOJA: Which result so far means the most to you?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Probably the victory in the Tour of Upper Austria where I was in the last royal stage with a solo ride on a 7km climb where I was 1:20 min behind the leaders, and got 3rd place in the race for the Nations Cup in Czech Republic. Two years in a row I won the two-day race of the UCI in Serbia, two years in a row I won the traditional Coppa Montes in Italy, I was second in the world to accomplish this in the 63-year history of this race, also notable was the home win for GP Kranj, but I am mostly proud of my constant racing throughout the season, because I practically finished all important races in the top ten, and finished first among juniors PCSA (world cycling ranking procyclingstats)

LUKAZOJA: Doping? Your opinion?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I started at a time when doping wasn’t as common in cycling. I’m very critical of all forbidden substances because I know how much you have to put in to be good, and it is really not acceptable to get defeated by someone who is full of illegal substances. I don’t like the fact that Slovenes were on doping, as now they look at us younger people with contempt, since we still have a bad reputation. I think that in future it will be harder to find a good team for us younger cyclers because of the bad experiences with our predecessors

LUKAZOJA: Food, do you have any restrictions?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I like almost everything but I try to eat as healthily as possible, and ‘sin’ as rarely as possible.

LUKAZOJA: Are you always happy when you have to go to training? When is the hardest?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I always go gladly to training, only at the end of the season or when I have trouble (disease this year) I’m not so motivated, but nevertheless, I do all the prescribed training.

LUKAZOJA: Do you prefer to work alone or in company?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: It’s either or, but I prefer company on longer trips. I really don’t have problems with motivation, so I always do what I have to (sometimes even more).

LUKAZOJA: Do you listen to music at practice? What do you like listening to?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: When I’m alone, I always listen to music, but in group trainings not so often. So I spend most of training with my headset in my right ear, but only so loud that I can still hear the surroundings and traffic around me. Somehow, I like all genres, most of Yu-rock, rock, rap and everything which goes easy in my ears.

LUKAZOJA: Do you clean your bike by yourself? How? How often?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Of course, I clean it before every race and after every rainy training. Sometimes my father takes the bike to “processing” and preparation, especially if I do not have the time.

LUKAZOJA: According to physical constitution, you’re more of a climbing cycler. This year, you became great in other elements, as well. How did this transformation happen?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: In the juniors there were not a lot of these races to prove what kind of a cycler you are. Slopes are too short, some have better equipment than others, some are already much more developed than others, and thus stronger. At the chronometer this year I could test myself competitively because we bought a bike for time trials, which I previously did not have. In the end, however, I think that if you have a reasonably good equipment, if you’re good, you’re good everywhere.

LUKAZOJA: Do you always respect the agreement before the race? Have you ever violated the agreement? Is the agreement in the domain of the trainer, do you competitors ever negotiate yourselves?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I always respect what we agree with the trainer or the cyclers. That helped me achieve a good result a lot of times, for example at the World Cup last year. I don’t dislike anyone because of that, but I said many times to myself that I could race better if I were in another cycler’s shoes, the one’s on whom the tactics was built. However, cycling is a team sport, races take place throughout the year, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you win.

LUKAZOJA: What is your day before an important game like? Do you have any special rituals?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I try to rest a lot. Training is very short, with intervals. I mostly eat hydrates and go to massages. Before races, I stick to the schedule.

LUKAZOJA: Trouble at a race. Do you observe your heartbeat, Watts, maybe something else, or just keep going?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I was seldom in serious trouble. Last year in Italy at one of the races, I found myself in big trouble, because after 30 km something happened so I drove the whole race at the back. When I’m in trouble, I somehow watch only Watts because the heartrate is always different. Otherwise I rely more on my feelings than on Garmin.

LUKAZOJA: Most of the riders said that they have a certain number of charges in the race. Do you already know how much you’ve got?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I do not know exactly how much I’ve got because I always try as hard as I can. Until the race breaks, I’m saving my strength, then I try to be there without thinking much. About the charges, I do not exactly agree because over time, each one is refilled, but sometimes this charge is not found anywhere and you don’t know if you’ve ever even spent it …

LUKAZOJA: What is your favorite cycling section? Where do you like to go most? Where will you surely never return?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I do not have a favorite section, as the Gorenjska region is so small that in one workout you could cycle on a lot of roads. I like to go to Lubnik, Stari vrh, Jezersko etc. When I finish cycling, I will never return to the section Paris – Roubaix, and in Slovenia to the valley of Bohinjska Bistrica and Bled.

LUKAZOJA: Do you collect articles and posts about yourself? Are there a lot of posts?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: My father files the majority of the articles. Every season there is quite a number of interviews, results, race numbers, in short, everything that has happened throughout the season.

LUKAZOJA: Does anybody recognize you as a cyclist, as a top athlete? Do you have any privileges because of this?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: Of course, most know me as a cyclist, because this is my life. Through cycling you meet a lot of people, and they get to know you, and you therefore have less privileges, and at the same time more obligations. You have to behave responsibly and through sport be a role model to the younger and peers and people older than you. With progress, I mainly got the chance to listen to opinions of other great trainers, they are mainly open-minded people that usually tell “something more”, and when I have the chance I train with people better than me, the professionals. This is when I learn the most.

LUKAZOJA: Do you prefer a better cycler who is a worse friend, or a worse cycler who is a better friend in your team?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: I prefer a better friend. If we all understand each other, we also gladly do something for each other and race as a team. The problem is when we are not close to each other because everyone races for themselves.

LUKAZOJA: Do you have an idol? Who is currently the best cycler? In history?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: My favorite cyclist currently is Esteban Chaves because I see that he really enjoys his time on the bike, he’ s a good, nice man in real life. Historically, I think that the best cyclist is Eddy Merckx, as he won one third of all races he started.

LUKAZOJA: Can you tell us where you see yourself in the next season?

JAKA PRIMOŽIČ: No problem, if I only I knew. Offers are on the table but I’m still young. I have to complete high school, and then we’ll see where the bicycle route takes me.

All photos: Aleš Zdešar

Translation: Luka Krnić