BDO Malta Cross Country National Point Series kicks off to muddy start in Mizieb

Sunday, February 5, 2017, 21:33

Mud, sweat and a bit of tears

Mizieb was a challenging and muddy playground for the thirty-nine cyclists taking part in the BDO Malta Cross Country National Point Series. Organised by the Malta Mountain Bike Association, this was the first Cross Country Race of 2017 and despite the inclement weather conditions the race had a much better turnout than expected.  Cyclists were split into five Categories – Elite, Ladies, Open, Masters and Juniors.

From the very start of the mass start, Elite category cyclist Mark Bonnici (Agones SFC) shot to the front registering the fastest time on the 4.5km lap. Hot on his heels was veteran Patrick Scicluna (Mosta C.C.) and Ramon Grech (Agones SFC) – all three created a gap from fellow Elite cyclists – Jeffrey Borg and Etienne Bonello – both Team Greens. There was to be trouble for Bonnici, however, when he suffered technical issues in the second lap and was forced to withdraw. His withdrawal left the field open for Scicluna, Grech, Borg and Bonello to battle it out for a podium place.  Further mishaps were encountered this time by Grech who punctured his back wheel, whilst a quick change enabled Grech to continue another flat tyre ruled him out from completing the race. As Scicluna pressed on forward leading the group, it became evident after each lap that his first position was going to be seriously challenged by Etienne Bonello.  Scicluna kept his position until the fourth lap when Bonello caught up with him and kept pushing on in an attempt to widen the gap.  At the end it was Bonello who crossed the line first to win the Elite category with an advantage of one minute and one second over Scicluna.   Jeffrey Borg produced a good race to come in third.

“The first race of the season is a good indicator of pre-season training. The first lap was really fast and I managed to stay near the front until a chain problem forced me to stop. I remounted my bike trying to ride myself up to the front. Lap after lap I reeled in most of the riders and before the final lap the race leader was in sight. Eventually I gave a strong push just before the start of the final lap and hammered all the way to the finish. The weather contributed to tough race conditions and many riders fell victim of mechanical failures.” remarked Etienne Bonello following his first win of the season.

In the Ladies category there was little doubt that the person to beat would be Marie Claire Aquilina (Team Greens). Marion Pullicino (Mosta C.C.) a fairly new face on the scene was determined to get as close as possible to Aquilina but a technical mishap put Pullicino’s plans to rest despite her valiant attempts.  Aquilina sailed easily to victory. Second placed was Agones SFC cyclist Lara Buttigieg.

“Wet conditions meant very slippery rock sections and lots of mud to play with! Great turnout and fantastic organization! Thank you to all who came to support, especially organisers and sponsors who made this happen!” enthused a very muddy Aquilina after the race.

The Open Category was dominated by Mark Zammit, who kept a close pace with the Elite cyclists for most of the race. Ryan Darmanin and Wayne Schembri made it a close race for the three with less than a two- minute gap between them to finish first, second and third respectively.  In the Masters Category it was Enrico Brandamante who took the first place followed by David Pace and Gozitan cyclist Domenic Cutajar.  Nicholas Attard Montalto (The Cyclist) won the Juniors Category followed by Sean Enriquez (Mosta C.C.) who at age fourteen was the youngest participant of the race.

Pierre Zammit Endrich, President of the Association expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the first race, despite the several mishaps that cyclists encountered on the challenging route “Whilst this morning’s weather is perfect for such a race, we were concerned that some cyclists might be put off with the rain. Clearly we were wrong. Whilst quite a few cyclists had some flat tyres and technical failures resulting in a disappointing day for them, the rest finished the race muddied and smiling, so we hope to see them return for the next race. Our target for the next race will be to see more female and Junior participation”

The second race of the BDO Malta Cross Country National Point Series will take place on Sunday 19th March in Mgarr.

The 2017 Cross Country Series is being supported BDO Malta and by Magri Cycles, Carm & Co Ltd (SIS products) and Island Beverages (H20nly).

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