Published: 11th Aug 2023 Images: Scottish Cycling

Aldridge on top of the world

Charlie Aldridge used the home crowd to his advantage as he rocketed to the Men’s U23 XCO Mountain Bike World title at Glentress on Friday.

Coming in as one of the favourites, Aldridge admitted he felt the pressure, but his performance showed no signs of that, as he delivered a mature, composed ride, landing the knockout blow at the perfect time.

Leading from the gun, the man from Crieff, who was a member of Tay Titans and then Stirling Bike Club before progressing on to the professional ranks, made the pace hard for the first 10 minutes to drag a select group clear.

From there he sat in the lead group, which quickly whittled down to four, going to the front on the climbs to control the pace, but always looking in control as he measured his effort.

With three laps to go the Swiss rider Dario Lillo pushed the pace of up the main climb, dropping the American Riley Amos, meaning the medals were all but decided, but the battle for gold was still to be fought out.

The first proper attack came from Frenchman Adrien Boichis up the main climb on the last lap, almost instantly dropping this Swiss, but Aldridge was up to the test, closing up to his wheel and going straight over the top.

The elastic had snapped to Boichis, and from there Aldridge was away and gone, feeding on the crowds energy as he extended his lead all the way to line, the crowd going wild.

Looking resplendent in his rainbow jersey, when asked how it sounded to be the new World Champion, Aldridge said:

“It sounds pretty good! I think Junior World Champs was a bit of an up and down year – I wasn’t expecting to win that one and then I did, so that was an amazing feeling. But this one, to win at home with everyone I know, with friends and family, is a completely different ball game. I’m super, super, super excited and I couldn’t stop smiling on the podium!

“All I could hear was ‘Go on Charlie’ up the climbs! It was super, super cool. I was very nervous, to be fair. I was just trying not to think about it too much, and then as soon as I was on the start line, I was like, ‘okay, don’t stress’, and do the best I can really, and yeah, it paid off.”

There were three other Scots in the race, Corran Carrick-Anderson also producing a great ride, moving through from a start position of 72nd to finish 18th. Having had a difficult year with illness, Carrick-Anderson showed his potential as he finished less than a minute off the top 10, and he still has two years in the age group.

“That was so good – I was going up the climb and I was hearing people miles away – I couldn’t even see them but I could already hear them! It’s not been a good year, and I’ve really struggled, which is why I was starting 72nd, but I just kept moving up and moving up. I heard over the tanoy that Charlie won, so I knew I just had to dig deep and I got 18th – that’s the best I could have hoped for to be honest.”

Also in action were Rory McGuire, who incidentally was the last man to complete the full distance, finishing in 58th place, whilst there was an enjoyable debut for Sam Chisholm moving up from 87th on the grid to finish 71st.

In the U23 Women’s equivalent the sole Scot in action was Anna McGorum, as unfortunately younger sister Elena was ruled out after a training crash earlier in the week. Anna produced a great ride, starting 51st and finishing 35th, an effort she could be very proud of.

Afterwards she commented:

“That was insane! Even just being called up at the start – Anna McGorum from Peebles – and everyone just went wild. It was really tough – the climbs were just savage and I struggled a bit on them, but as soon as I got on the descents I found my flow and the crowds were amazing and I just hit everything really well.

“I didn’t race any of last season, and missed half of the season before, so to come into my first season back and race World Champs is really cool.”

Tomorrow we once again focus on Glentress, with Cameron Mason and Isla Short in action in the Elite XCO races, whilst down in Dumfries Fin Graham and Jenny Holl look to add even more silverware, and fluffy coos, to their burgeoning collections.

With two days of the Championships to go, Scottish riders have contributed 16 medals to Great Britain’s medal table topping haul.