Photos: Giant Starkenn India, Kimaya Morye
Pranita Soman from Maharashtra, India is the youngest woman to win the Indian National MTB XC Championship elite title in 2017. She grabbed a gold in the Junior category as well, the same week! Following up with more podium finishes at the 2018 XC Nationals in juniors and elites. Pranita is not all trail and dirt, she’s an elite road cyclist too. Freeridermag caught up with Pranita to know more about her cycling journey.
Hometown: Sangamner, Dist – Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India
Discipline: Road and MTB
Current bike: Road bikes: Liv Envie (TT bike), Liv Langma (MS bike), Focus Cayo (MS bike) / Mountain Bikes: Giant Talon 1
Sponsors: Giant Starkenn India#FRMTB: How did you get into mountain biking?
Pranita: I started my cycling career in Pune after my 10th grade in 2016, under the guidance of Mr.Raju Bhapkar, my coach then. In 2017 I moved to Ahmednagar and am being coached by Mr.Sumer Singh Sheoran (Indian Army Cycling coach). I’m currently training in Ahmednagar with the Indian Army Cycling team.
I initially started with road cycling but as suggested to me by my coach, I gave mountain biking a try. In 2016, my first year on a mountain bike, I qualified for the Cross Country MTB Nationals.
#FRMTB: Who inspires you the most?
Pranita: In cycling Samira Abraham (National road champion 2018) and Rutuja Satpute (National road champion 2017) they’ve both been a big inspiration to me.
Apart from them, my Father inspires me the most!!!
#FRMTB: Did you ever imagine that you’d win the Indian National Cross Country MTB Champion title in the “Juniors” as well as the “Elites” category?
Pranita: After winning silver in the “Time trial” during my first nationals in the U-18 category (I was 16) I was confident about winning the following year’s junior category!
But, I’d never imagined winning the “Elite” category. It was difficult. It was a team effort powered by my coaches, friends and family who motivated me to race the Elites.
#FRMTB: How did your parents react to you pursuing sports?
Pranita: My parents are very supportive. They are Doctors. When I completed my high school with 97% they never forced me to take the science stream in college and become a doctor. In fact, personally I always wanted to be a doctor. But to focus on cycling I choose to take the commerce stream.
My father takes care of my training and my mother looks into my diet. My elder sis, my support system, helps me with my studies.
#FRMTB: What were the challenges you faced while chasing your mountain bike racing dream?
Pranita: For the first two years, beating the competition and winning was the only challenge. But in June 2018 I broke my left hand while the nationals were slated for October. To recover completely and be healthy to compete again in four events (2 in Junior and 2 in the Elite category) was a challenge.
Apart from this, in my first event (Junior Time Trial), I injured my left hand again and it was impossible for me to race. But again because of coaches and family support I managed to win 4 medals in 4 events. That was very challenging for me.
#FRMTB: How do you manage your training along with your studies?
Pranita: My college, Pemraj Sarda College, Ahmednagar, is very supportive! My sports teachers, Mr. Sanjay Dhopaokar Sir and Mr. Sanjay Sathe Sir always motivate me for races. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, my sister Mukta Soman plays an important role in my educational things.
#FRMTB: What’s your take on women reigning the sports scene these days? What do you think is required to improve female participation in sports, especially in India?
Pranita: Yes, it’s true that very few women in India actively participate in sports. We should spread awareness about sports and should motivate them for the same. We can do a lot in sports but many of us are unaware of our own capabilities. I’ll always suggest them to try!
#FRMTB: You are a sponsored athlete now, with Giant Bicycles India. How much has the new support helped you in progressing as an athlete?
Pranita: Giant Starkenn India backed me with the new Giant Talon 1 for my mountain bike races. Along with Road bikes and required riding gear, so now I can focus on my training even more. CEO of Giant Starkenn India, Mr.Pravin Patil Sir always supports me and pushes me to improve and perform at my best.
#FRMTB: If not mountain biking, what would you be following?
Pranita: If not Mountain biking or Road cycling, I’d be following Track cycling!
#FRMTB: What is your message to the young women in India who wish to, but don’t pursue sports?
Pranita: I think they should consider taking up some sport. Even if not as a career path, girls should practice some sport for physical and mental fitness!
#FRMTB: When not on the trails, what do you do off the bike?
Pranita: When I am off the bike I pay attention to my fitness. I usually hit the gym, run or swim.
#FRMTB: Any shout outs to brands/people who support you?
Pranita: To each and every person who has supported me all this while, your support is very important and precious for me. Thanks to Giant Starkenn India, all my coaches and teachers, my friends, my elder sister and a big thanks to my parents for always motivating me.