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“It’s like taking a knife to a gun fight, these guys compete for a living,” reflects Giles Cerisola after debut in Commonwealth Games Mountain Bike competition

Wednesday’s session of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games saw Gibraltar’s debut in the Mountain Bike category with Giles Cerisola and Karl Sciortino representing Gibraltar.
Both Gibraltar riders had shown their commitment towards competing at the Commonwealth Games having worked hard during the past eighteen months prior to the competition to try and reach the qualifying times. Working at times against all odds having to navigate past Covid-19 restrictions, weather delays, bureaucracy and a lack of facilities which saw their main preparations taking place in Spanish circuits and meeting the time criteria in the final deadline weeks.
Their journey to Birmingham would see them compete against a field of 27 other riders among which were some of the top names in the sport.
Hosted at the Cannock Chase Forest, riders faced a treacherous technical course which was to see just ten riders complete the course without getting lapped from a field of 27. The course designed to provide a fast but technically difficult course which was to prove a challenge to riders.
Among those who to find themselves pulled out was Scottish rider Charlie Aldridge one of the favorites who had to drop out after mechanical failure saw his chain fall off after a handling error.
New Zealand’s Samuel Gaze and Ben Oliver dominated the race taking gold and silver respectively. Namibia’s Alexander Miller providing a final challenge to the two New Zealanders towards the final lap of the circuit after catching up with both and pressing at their heels.
Gibraltar’s riders were among the first six riders to be pulled out due to the prospect of being lapped.
Although having maintained a steady pace which saw them keeping close to the main bulk of riders the challenging course, along with the strict regulations aimed at protecting the leading pack saw Gibraltar’s riders join another 17 riders pulled out and unable to complete the full course.
Gibraltar’s riders, who had prepared hard during the past eighteen month prior to the competition to get their qualifying times and reach the Commonwealth Games, took the experience as another test in their journey in the sport which they hoped would take them into further international competitions in the future.
Speaking after the race Giles Cerisola, known primarily in local sport as one of Eagle’s Hockey talents, but who had sacrificed this year’s participation in Eurohockey club events in order to be ready to represent Gibraltar at the Commonwealth Games spoke to this newspaper, providing his views on how his debut at the Commonwealth Games went.
“The course was fast, fun and technical. Its been a great pleasure to be able to race in such course as this is something many people will only get to see on tv.
“We did manage the technical side of it pretty well bar one section which required a dropper post, something neither of us had but we take this as a lesson and most likely our next investment.
“All our races leading up to this has helped push us out of our comfort zones but nothing would prepare us to face the likes of world cup profesional riders, its like taking a knife to a gun fight, these guys compete for a living and although we are dedicated to the sport and have given it many many hours (pretty much all our free time including long hours on weekends) one cannot be compared to professionals, with this said it is a great honor to share the track with them and live the experience, learn from this and hopefully grow into a stronger competitor from all we have learnt here.
“At the time we were pulled out it was a big blow, because even though you are giving it all, the riders still hadn’t caught us and I am sure we could have done one or two laps more, unfortunately the rules are the rules and we leave with a bittersweet taste.
“There is a lot I have learnt here, perhaps I have learnt more in this one race than I have in all the others I have done, having the pleasure of speaking to top athletes and seeing what and how they do things has helped me realise where and how we could improve. We now take all this experience and keep working, this doesn’t end here, hopefully this is the stepping stone for MTB in Gib.”

Images courtesy Mr Giles Cerisola

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