European Championship

My dream has come true

European Championship

At the end of this year, AFINIS Group® became a partner of the young Slovak sportswoman Michaela Belzárová. We supported her on her way to compete in the European Bikejoring Championships – cycling with a dog. In an interview with her you will learn about Michaela’s story, how she got into this unusual sport discipline and much more. Enjoy reading!

Michela, in spite of your young age, you have achieved outstanding results in an unconventional and interesting sport. Did you expect to excel in bikejoring when you were younger?

By the time I got to bikejoring, I dreamt about my things. However, I would never expect to do this kind of sport, even before my first race in 2018.

Can you tell us a bit more?

Well, it is quite difficult to explain everything that has happened to me and what I feel inside, because not everybody can understand what this sport means to me, but I will try. I used to be a very energetic child, however, at that time I had no idea that something like bikejoring even existed. I knew there was sled mushing and that was all, I guess. I have always been drawn to working with dogs and the relationship between musher – person that competes and looks after the dogs with his/her dog. It has been really fascinating for me and therefore I decided to give it a try.
In my short life I have experienced many things and I suppose that without this sport I would not be so happy and satisfied in my life.

I see that you have always liked dogs. When you started this sport, did you find the right canine companion immediately?

I had several possibilities to compete with various dogs, and even though I liked and enjoyed it, I still felt that something was missing. I was not an active competitor, because our rules do not allow competing with the same dog and my dad was an active sportsman so I had little possibility to participate in competitions.
In my career, which I started at the age of 15, I have always reached the highest rankings. Therefore in 2019 we eventually decided to get a dog that would be just mine. Every time I talk about this sport and particularly about the moment when I had to choose my companion, it feels like yesterday, when I had to pick between two puppies.

Have you made the right decision?

Luckily, I have. I truly believe that it was the best decision in my life. Nobody convinced me, I made my own decision and even today I am still proud of the choice I had made when choosing my little Velox.
I keep on telling that he is little, even though it is not true any more. He will remain my puppy forever. When I first saw Velox, I knew he was the one for me and that he would make my dreams come true. In our career we have achieved quite a lot and I am sure, there is still a lot more ahead of us.

What can you tell us about your first success?

The first time we participated in Slovak Championships, Velox was only 18 months old and I was just 17, however, we achieved the impossible. We fought our way and got second in male category and won the first Runner-Up title in Slovakia. The best men in Slovakia competed with us. Despite my injury three days before the race, we managed to beat the European Champions in this discipline and we became the fastest racers.

Which race do you appreciate the most?

So far, we have had a lot of experiences, wins and rankings, however, my most favorite race, is the one held in October and November this year. We trained all year and we managed to prove that no other woman could beat us in Slovakia. We both did our best and we were able to show the world that we are the best and we deserve our title.
At that time, we had no idea that we would participate in something even bigger. It all happened so rapidly and unexpectedly. Ever since I started racing, I’ve dreamed of this moment ̶ that I will stand at the start one day and show what is in us, but I did not expect it to happen so fast.

Congratulations on your accomplishments. What happened next?

This year has been extremely fast and everything happened very quickly. Right after the Slovak Championship, there was the European Championship. It has been the biggest race of my life and my career. I am very grateful for every experience. The race was held in Germany, which I visited for the first time. Stake out – the place where dogs and racers start was close the village of Klaistow in a beautiful area, that felt like Christmas already on 25 November. The weather was quite cold and since it was an open-air race it felt even colder. The trail was 5.24 kilometers long, it lead through woods, past doe reserve, through fields and sandy parts back to the stake out along strawberry fields.

Could you give us more detail, so that we have a better idea of how the race looked like?

The first day was amazing. Velox did great and so did I. However, the competition was tough, as only the best European athletes competed. Although there were „only“ 9 participants, the competition was really intense and most participants were unknown to me.

How did individual days on the track go?

The first day was very windy, but I did not stop us. We managed to maintain excellent speed and outran racers ahead of us, for example a man who started one minute earlier as well as another big mush. Velox did his best, since he has no problem with outrunning others. We achieved excellent results – our time in the finish line which made me extremely proud was 11:20. When we heard the results and I almost couldn’t believe it. I have never had doubt about Velox and our abilities to beat the best. However, on the outside it might have appeared differently. After the first day, we were on the first place and we beat the European champion by 14 seconds. I was over the moon with our performance.

That sounds amazing! Congratulations! Were you able to keep the first place on the second day?

It was colder the next day, but it did not stop us. We did our best, but unfortunately, something unexpected came up. At some point, Velox had to stop , which was rather surprising, at a full speed of 35 km/h. As I did not anticipate it, it stopped abruptly and fell off my bike. After the fall, I really do not know how it happened; my chain got stuck at a place where it is quite unlikely to happen. I was not able to repair it quickly. In the meantime, another racer was able to pass us, my chain still stuck and I lost 90 seconds, that made us lose the first place. We fought till the finish line, but unfortunately it was not enough. After the second day we were on the second place, however, nothing was for sure.

The second place seems quite rewarding after such troubles. How did it play out on the third day?

The third day was a fight. Velox had some health concerns and was not able to focus. Although he was quite fast, I know he could do better. Our time got better than the previous day, but I knew we could perform even better. The racer who got first thanks to my technical issues tried very hard, however, she was not able to beat my time from the first day.
Eventually, we managed to keep the second position. We ended as the first Runner-Ups and we gained much more – new experience and friendships. The athlete who won rooted for me in the finish line and told me that I had been a tough competitor and that I had deserved to win.

That’s a pity, however, that‘s sports…The second place in European Championship is a tremendous success at your age. What have you learnt from this competition?

Well, it was my first European Championship. And what have I learned? That not everything goes as planned. We must be grateful for small things and not to worry about things we cannot influence. We must find pleasure in life, as we live just once. And this is what this sport means to me. After a long search, I finally found who I am and thanks to my best companion, I am fulfilling my biggest dreams, desires and goals.

What happened after the European Championship and what else is expecting you?

We were supposed to take part in the World Championship, which was postponed due to the pandemic situation. We hoped to conclude our first official season grandiosely. In the end, we participated in the Hungarian Championship, where we competed with 6 of the best Hungarian racers on a difficult trail, which tested our shape. Although we like hills, the problem was that it had been snowing the night before and the next morning there was mud everywhere. The mud was so bad, that you could not move ahead on flat land nor keep up constant speed or make curves, not to mention going uphill. However, it was great fun. The next day, it snowed again, so we had to ride our bikes in deep snow.
Not only we had fun, we proved our qualities, as well. After the first day we had a lead of almost 4 minutes in the mud and after the second day in the snow we increased it to 5 minutes, so after adding two days we beat the best Hungarians by 9 minutes. This was our season and I’m already looking forward to the next one, where we will show again what is in us and what we can still do together.

We at AFINIS Group® are delighted to endorse such a strong and goal-oriented young athlete and her dog companion. We will support Michaela in the future and hope that together they will meet all their goals and fulfill their dreams.