Xross Hard Enduro Rally is in the books. This is the 9th year I have participated in this spectacular event. And given that I was there from the beginning, I know what we all went through to make the Xross what it is today. But just because I know how this event breathes, it doesn’t mean shooting will go smoothly and easily. Contrary! It is a challenge for an organizer, it is a challenge for riders, and it is a challenge for a photographer.
Over four days, counting Prologue on Day 1, the Xross Rally took riders on a 100km long daily enduro rides through mountains Tara, Mokra Gora, and Zlatibor. Excellent planning is the key to events such as this one. There are few locations, not easily approachable, that you have to cover in a single race day. If you don’t have a good plan, you won’t be able to see or take a photo of anything.
Once you are on the location, you are not in a single spot. It is usually a demanding and rough terrain – slippery uphill, a canyon, a stone quarry, or an overflowing creek. It is the usual hard enduro ambiance.
Not only do you have to find the perfect spot, but you also need to “read” the rider so that you know what line he will choose to go through that part of the track. Having a lot of experience shooting hard enduro events and knowing the riders and their capabilities also plays a huge role when photographing these races.
Another challenge that we face is the weather. And this year, we had one day when the rain didn’t stop for a moment. It was cold and rainy, and there was a tons of mud everywhere. The next few days were very sunny. But that is a hard enduro.
The conditions are the same for everyone, riders, organizers, audience, and photographers. Again, dealing with this comes with experience, and as I mentioned in the beginning – shooting the Xross is challenging, but that brings me joy and excitement.
Xross Rally was the opening round of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championship. This is the 2nd year the Serbian race has been part of the world championship, and it is a historic moment for the moto sports in my country. The race saw a record number of riders – 300 from 40 countries.
The event started with a rider’s parade through the center of Zlatibor, and the opening ceremony also included the presentation of new hard enduro bike models for 2024 and the press conference in which the best riders from the championship shared their impressions and expectations.
Wednesday was reserved for Prologue, a demanding course with obstacles such as logs, tires, huge stones, and a spectacular wall ride. During the day, riders practiced on this course and went to the qualification rounds.
The afternoon was reserved for the finals, where 16 top riders in each class went on the Akrapovic enduro cross. It was Billy Bolt who took the win, and he was followed by Alfredo Gomez in second and Trystan Hart in third place.
In the next three days, riders faced a much different challenge, and it could be anybody’s race. So many great names in hard enduro were aiming for the win. The tracks took riders through beautiful but wild Serbian mountains, and given the weather conditions and the competition, it was truly a hard enduro thriller. After three days of racing, the first rider through the finish line was Manuel Lettenbicheler, the defending world champion, who made his second win at the Xross rally. Mario Roman was in second, and Teodor Kabakchiev in third place.