Team Country: Croatia Sports Manager: POLONCIC Vinko Category: UCI Continental Teams
Meridiana - Kamen Team is a Croatian UCI Continental team founded in 2009. It participates in UCI Continental Circuits races. Emanuel Kišerlovski is the current Croatian national champion.
The team was founded in November 1979. By 1999 under the name ‘Kamen Pazin’, then ‘Kamen Cremcaffe Kavaimpex’. From the 1st January 2004 it went by ‘Puris Kamen Pazin’ and ever since 2009 it’s been holding the ‘Meridiana Kamen Team’ name.
In a time where not a lot of people were able to afford cars, the idea to set up a cycling team was quite polarizing. Some approved it, some didn’t, but mostly everyone took the idea with a grain of salt.
It was a time when a bicycle as a mean of transportation wasn’t quite in style, although in the western countries it prevailed as a transport function, a reflection of ecological awareness and especially as a tool to quench the thirst for sports and moving about.
In Pazin, the idea was born within the 25th anniversary of the ‘Kamen’ company. ‘Kamen’ organized a bike tour which was greatly accepted and therefore the team ‘Kamen Pazin’ was born. The initial board included Ivica Gržinić, Vjekoslav Krajcar and Željko Šperanda. The three prepared the first parliament and brought forward the statute in November 27th 1979.
Along with the members of the board and employees of the ‘Kamen’ company, Karmen Krebel, the late Rino Luk, Milan Erdfeld, Jozo Barać, many other well regarded citizens took part in the operation of the team.
Under the leadership of Ivica Gržinić, the first riders were: Lučano Rigo, Dean Stranić, Boris Gortan, Boris Širol and Mauro Jurčić.
With serious work and support of the ‘Kamen’ company, the city of Pazin and other sponsors, already in the first year had Lučano Rigo won the Junior National title.
During the first years of the team, the material was often mainly acquired in Slovenia and Italy and whatever tool and repair needed was done in the club’s workshop or in the ‘Kamen’ factory. In addition, props for organizing the races and car’s bike racks were all built in house. Parallel to that, a lot of effort was taken into training coaches, judges and travel chiefs. Also, a lot of work has gone into the popularization of cycling through numerous events - professional and amateur.
It is hard to mention just a few successes in the last 35 years. In 1983, Croatian Time Trial Championship is swept by the team’s junior contenders and some 1st places are taken by David Fonović and Nikola Matić. From 1984 to 1987 David Fonović and Nikola Matić achieve great results in winning some of the Croatian Cup races and deserve a placement among the top ten riders in Yugoslavia. In 1987, a perspective young sprinter - Bratislav Prelac joins the bunch, later to be considered as the team’s best sprinter ever. In addition to Bratislav, Roman Carić, Marijan Matić and Kristijan Hreljak join the team. In 1988, Žak Fonović was introduced and alongside Kristijan Hreljak, wins the 1st and 2nd place among young cadets and Bratislav Prelac takes the 1st place in cadet division. In 1990, the team comprised of Žak Fonović, Roman Carić, Mauro Štifanić and Vlado Hrvatin won 2nd place in the team time trial in the Yugoslavian Road National Championship in Novi Sad. This was a huge success.
The nineties were the most fruitful years in junior categories. Žak Fonović, Vlado Hrvatin, Roman Carić, Alfred Širol and Martin Čotar clean the 1st places in domestic races and nationa championships. The year 1993 deserves a special highlight when the first senior team was assembled, led by Žak Fonović, who contributed a great deal in terms of making a stable elite senior team.
During the establishment of Croatia as an independent nation, the team’s riders are granted even important roles as the leaders of the club. Ivica Gržinić becomes the National team coach and later the director of the National teams. Žak Fonović, Vlado Hrvatin, Martin Čotar, Robert Pečnjak and Ranko Antolović become the the National team’s skeleton, especially during the first races. Željko Močibob becomes the National team’s mechanic.
Through the years, the ‘Kamen Pazin’ senior team, as well as today, presents the Croatian cycling across Europe with about 60 appearances per season and has been proclaimed the best sports team in the Istria County. In 1999, Martin Čotar, now a member of the ‘Sava’ team from Kranj, wins the European Time Trial Championship and the first stranger, Belarus’ Evgenij Golovanov joins the ‘Kamen Pazin’. In 2001, the Ukrainian Anatoliy Varvaruk arrives and so a respectable team forms and in 2003, it won its first international race in Hungary. Later on, Anatoliy Varvaruk holds numerous yellow jerseys, as well as Gregor Zajc – an outstanding sprinter, national team members Zvonimir Pokupec and Alan Dumić make also great results. Our recently retired Andrija Šepuk and Goran Santini also helped a great deal in making the history of the team in recent years. In 2009, the desire to finally form a professional team grows stronger and the merger of the Italian ‘Meridiana’ and ‘Kamen’ creates just that. The newly merged ‘Meridiana Kamen Team’ was introduced to a professional world of cycling. This new ensemble was the home of many Croatian national team members, as well as the Italian two-time National champion – Salvatore Comesso, Davide Rebellin and German renowned Patrik Sinkewitz.
With the organization of ‘Nagrada Pazina’, the team has been the author of large projects such as ‘Trofej Poreč’ and ‘Istarsko Proljeće’, professional races which, by the number of spectators and the quality of the contenders, can be placed among the elite races in the world of cycling.