Hard Enduro is a tough sport and rarely we see ladies compete, that is why we are always happy to meet the ones who are brave enough to accept this kind of a challenge. One of them is a young Serbian rider Minja Cvetanovic (24) who is a regular at Xross Challenge and without a doubt, a favorite of Serbian audience.
She first met with Hard Enduro at Xross Challenge 2017 and rough and wild Tara mountain took a lead 1:0 because Minja was forced to quit the race on the first day. However, she came back last year and ended up on the second place in Women category. It was the toughest edition of our race but – rain, mud, tough uphills and downhills, overflown rivers – nothing could stop Minja, her persistence has conquered all obstacles. Her father Goran Cvetanovic and her boyfriend Jovan Velojic, who also competed were great support for her.
Since we are getting closer to the sixth edition of Xross Challenge we spoke with Minja who told us why she loves Hard Enduro, how she fights tough moments during the race and how she learned from her mistakes and manage to push her own limits and to finally finish the race.
When did you start riding Hard Enduro? Your father is riding too, was that fact influenced you anyhow?
My first encounter with Hard Enduro was in 2017 at the Xross Challenge. Until then, I did not have a clear perception of what it was actually. Dad and I went into the whole thing at the same time, so we are learning about Hard Enduro together and we are training together.
What do you like the most about Hard Enduro? What part of this sport is most challenging for you?
I love uncertainty the most because you never know what is waiting for you at the race. Fighting with rough terrains and with yourself creates a special dose of adrenaline that drives me.
Was Xross Challenge your first Hard Enduro race or were you competing somewhere else before?
My first race was Xross Challenge 2015, but I was riding the C class which used to be tourist class, and we rode mostly on macadam. That year for the first time I saw Hard Enduro bikes and realized that I want to ride them.
You participated in 2017 again, but the race ended for you on the first day. What do you remember from that race, how it looked like from your point of view?
In 2017, I suffered a debacle because I was completely unprepared for what was waiting for me. I have not yet been accustomed to a two-stroke engine that was not even fit for my weight. I was not psychologically prepared, and I must admit that I was not technically at the right level. On the first day, I had bad luck, I fell into a river and “drowned” my bike. What I remember the most was incredible persistence and effort of the people from the organization of the race, Bata and Brka, who were trying everything possible to start my bike again and enable me to continue the race. I am immensely thankful to them.
Well, you might didn’t finish that race, but you came back on the following year and finished the toughest edition of Xross Challenge so far. And you ended up on the 3rd place in a Woman category. What was the hardest part for you in that last race? Did you have any tactic?
Actually, I ended up on the 2nd place. Overflown rivers were the hardest for me because one of those rivers “disqualified” me a year earlier. Regarding the tactic, my fiance – then a boyfriend – Jovan was riding the whole race with me, and psychologically he made every problem easier for me. If it weren’t for him, I don’t think I would be able to finish the race because conditions were impossible.
How did you feel when you crossed the finish line?
When I came to the finish line I felt relief. I still wasn’t aware that I finished the toughest edition of the toughest race in Serbia. I remember that my father awaited me at the finish line and I told him that I will never ever ride races again. But that feeling lasted only until I get off the bike and from then I am impatiently waiting for Xross Challenge 2019.
In Hard Enduro, there are always those tough moments when you ask yourself: Why the hell did I need this in life. How do you deal with those tough moments, how do you encourage yourself, and how much the support of your father and fiance Jovan is important for you?
In the beginning, I kept asking myself that question, but in the meantime, I overcome that psychological barrier. It can be hard during the race, but quitting is not an option in any moment. Since I started thinking in that way everything is different. A thought that my father and Jovan are waiting for me at the finish, and I have to make them proud is what’s pushing me not to give up and to finish the race.
Hard Enduro is a demanding sport, how do you prepare for the race? How often do you train and does that training consist only of riding or do you practice something else?
I think the best preparation for Hard Enduro is just riding and spending many working hours on your bike. I must admit that I’m a little deprived of training by the fact that I live in Smederevo. Smederevo and its surroundings do not have any potential for Hard Enduro, so when I practice it’s usually on the meadow.
Last year you were at Hard Enduro clinic with Wade Young, that we organized during Xross Challenge. What have you learned from him?
Riding with Wade Young is an experience that I will definitely remember. The most significant was that he explained to me how to ride steep downhills, how much should I use breaks, what is the position of the body, etc… Of course, I learned a lot just watching one of the best riders in the world, in the action.
And what was the best advice that you got from experienced Hard Enduro riders?
Since all riders remember my beginnings, it means a lot to me when they notice how much I have improved and that I am getting better every year. During the race, I really appreciate advice from our best rider and my friend Dušan Blagojevic. I will use this opportunity to thank him and all other riders (friends) for their unselfish help and advice.
What are your expectations for this year, are you ready for the challenge?
I am more than ready for this year. I expect to finish the race, to learn something new as I do every year at Xross Challenge, and of course to push my own limits.
Thank you, Minja. Xross Team wishes you success in this year’s race. See you at Tara mountain from 14 to 16 June.
Author: Marija Joksimovic