Selmun slopes played host to the Malta Mountain Bike Association’s National Championships for the Downhill and Cross-Country events.

Held over a weekend Mountain Bike enthusiasts had a feast of competition which closed off a hectic yet successful season for the Association which introduced a number of initiatives that saw the sport gain more popularity throughout the year.

Downhill Championships

Selmun’s clay slopes hosted the final downhill race for the year. The Association introduced a number of changes which included a high-speed drop and a gap jump. The nature of the course ensured some high adrenaline action for riders who gave some strong performances and a great atmosphere for the spectators that lined the course.

Two categories made up the Championships – Elite and Open. The Elite race was won by Damian Camilleri, who despite not having taken part in the National Points Series showed his prowess to win the coveted title. Race regulars Jonathan Darmanin and Ryan Darmanin took second and third place respectively.

Luca Grixti gave an impressive performance in the Open Category, to not only win but also register the second-best time of the day. Grixti is a relative newcomer with two downhill races under his belt for the year.

The Cyclist Cross Country Championships

Following the end of the National Points Series, the Championships promised to be a highly competitive race, with cyclists the likes of Etienne Bonello, Maurice Formosa and Patrick Scicluna vying for top billing.

From the very start, it was Bonello and Formosa who took the lead and were head to head for the first two laps. On the third lap Bonello attacked in the climb, creating a seventeen second gap away from Formosa who nevertheless gave this race his all in an attempt to beat Bonello.

Despite Formosa’s valiant attempts, Bonello kept hammering through to clinch the title, leaving Formosa to settle for second place. Clive Ebejer, a new comer this season, repeated the performance given in the last race of the Series and took third place.

“It is not easy to crack Maurice Formosa, he has beaten me several times this season, when we broke away in front in the initial laps I felt I had better legs uphill and in the third lap I took a gamble of pushing the pace up the clay slopes risking of blowing up. I dug really deep but by the top I managed to drop him off my wheel. The following laps were eyeballs out to ascertain my advantage which I kept till the end of the race” explained Bonello “It is very satisfying to have claimed not only the National Point Series but also the National Championship.

Ryan Darmanin, who potentially missed out on the National Point Series title due to technical problems made up for this disappointment when a determined performance saw him take the better of close rivals Mark Zammit and Wayne Schembri. The trio dominated the Series throughout and went on to retain their placings on the podium in the Championships.

“This was the toughest race this year, especially since I had competed in the Downhill Championships the day before. Being a mass start, I found myself in the middle of the pack and had to work very hard to bring myself to the front. In the third lap, I managed to get to the front and kept going until the very end. Competition is tough here and gets closer to Elite level” – Ryan Darmanin

The Master’s Category saw winner Mark Portelli seal his first win of the season. A slow start from Domenic Cutajar, saw him miss out on the title for a mere nine second. Third place was Enrico Brandamante who despite a very strong start, lost time in the second lap. The time made up in the subsequent laps enabled him to gain third place.

In the women’s category, Marie Claire Aquilina shot off to take the lead with Danica Bonello Spiteri trailing behind her, with an approximate two-minute gap. In the third lap Aquilina and Bonello Spiteri stopped to give assistance to an injured cyclist thus effectively putting an end to the race.

The Race Organisers, in view of this show of sportsmanship decided to stop the race in the third lap rather than proceeding with the four remaining laps, with Aquilina being crowned champion.

“Despite having raced there quite a few times, Selmun remains a very testing circuit. I am thrilled to have won the national champion title on such a hard course” – Marie Claire Aquilina

“This year has provided the Association with a strong learning curve. Whilst we are happy with the overall outcome we are not ones to rest on our laurels. The lessons learnt this year will see us improve next year” assured Pierre Zammit Endrich, President of the Association. “We hope that in 2018, we will see more female and junior participation, and I commend the young Nicholas Attard Montalto, who has consistently taken part and given good performances”.

The Malta Mountain Bike Association will close off the season with a Prize Giving evening on Saturday 11th November during which winners will be presented with their prizes.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018
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