• Urska Zigart at Team BikeExchancge training camp (Team BikeExchange)Source: Team BikeExchange
Urška Žigart is one of Team BikeExchange's exciting new recruits, with the young Slovenian set to add to the growing stable of climbers at the Australian WorldTour squad.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

15 Feb 2021 - 3:18 PM 

The 2021 off-season was one of chance for Team BikeExchange, with Annemiek van Vleuten leaving and a whole host of young climbers joining the ranks to support the likes of Australians Amanda Spratt, Grace Brown and Lucy Kennedy. 

Žigart is one of those riders that got recruited to the team, coming to the squad with a growing pedigree in the sport. She started cycling late, at 18 years of age, but soon found herself thrust into top competition, racing three top-level UCI races before she turned 19.

"I actually started when I was 18, so not too long," said Žigart. "I started riding my bike and loved it. I became pretty good at it, but obviously, it was a shock when I saw what the professional level was. It took a few years, but I think I'm ready."

"I still have a lot of room for improvement, particularly with the technical part and some of the tactics and of course power-wise but I expect that is coming in the next years."

Žigart has been ensconced within Slovenian cycling for years now, and takes a step outside her comfort zone with the move to the Australian WorldTour squad.

"When I started cycling, I joined my home team, BTC Ljubljana and I spent quite a few years there," said Žigart. "I think it's the time for me to step up and see where I can improve and what I can learn from other riders.

"The previous team had become like a family, and that's another reason why I choose team BikeExchange, because of what I've seen from the outside and what I've experienced these past days, it seems like a family."

Žigart is making her way within the team during training camp, and has been spending the past few weeks acclimatising to the racing season getting underway, but also to the atmosphere and dynamics of a new team. It was a slightly daunting experience for the 24-year-old, seeing a few of the BikeExchange team as a bit intimidating within the peloton. 

"I maybe don't want to name them, but I've been afraid of them," said Žigart. "You have to be aggressive and know your position in the bunch... there were a few riders I was nervous to meet but all the riders have been super nice."

Žigart would perhaps be best known to the casual sports fan - and certainly most photographed - for appearing alongside partner Tadej Pogačar as he prepared to step onto the podium at the Tour de France. In the immediate aftermath, Žigart and Pogačar's relationship was tabloid news in Slovenia, though the majority of stories seem to be positive about the young couple who met through cycling.

"Sometimes it's nice, but it has its downsides of course," said Žigart. Since the Tour we've had a lot more media obligations, we have to watch what we post on social media, what we say because in Slovenia it could become an article. It was a shock, he's been a big talent since he was a little boy, it was still surprising him winning the Tour but we knew it was coming for a while."

It's not just Žigart watching the Tour de France winner race, Pogačar has been roadside in a support role in the past and the pair last year completed an impressive double as the Slovenian national time trial champions. 

"He came to see the Giro Rosa for the whole week," said Žigart, "being there for the whole week and checking up on me, it was super nice."

Žigart's ambitions for her immediate and longer term future with Team BikeExchange are modest, but she has a clear objective to improve over the coming years.

"I hope to be able to set tempo on the climbs for our leaders in the harder climbing races," said Žigart. "Maybe this year I just want to get some more experience and then we'll seen."

"If I can get some chances in smaller races, maybe the Spanish races in May, that would be great. But it depends a lot on me and how I perform."

"I enjoy my time on the bike, I don't have trouble motivating myself to go on the bike. Obviously, I have a strong training partner at home, I'm just looking forward to the new season, I hope it happens."

Entering the Aussie squad, Žigart talked of the ways she'll be able to grow and learn off-the-bike as well as on, and perhaps take a break from the tension of Slovenian scrutiny.

"I think off the bike I really like them," said Žigart of her new teammates. "They're easy-going and relaxed. I like this, I think I can be a bit under stress and I think they will complement me and maybe teach me something."