The third race in the BDO Malta Cross Country Series, organised by the Malta Mountain Bike Association, saw many frustrating moments for quite a few cyclists who had to contend with punctures, broken chains and an array of other mechanical issues.
As beautiful and majestic as it is, the Majjistral Park offers an unforgiving route full of technical, tricky and rocky sections which tested the most experienced of cyclists.
Kicking off the race were the Elite Cyclists with Mark Bonnici in search of his top podium placing – having suffered mechanical issues on the first race and a mishap on the second, Bonnici showed strong determination from the start to be out first on the line with race 2 winner Patrick Scicluna close on his heels – both completed the first lap in 13 mins 51 seconds. A flat tyre in the second lap saw Scicluna’s efforts slow down in order to continue the race. From then on Bonnici was on the forefront, keeping up the fast pace throughout the course. Nevertheless, Etienne Bonello, Jeffrey Borg and upcoming Gozitan cyclist Brandon Sultana did not give up on the chase and valiantly put up a good fight. Bonello and Borg both suffered punctures on the third lap. In the end it was Sultana who took second place on the podium whilst Bonello took third.
An elated Bonnici commented after the race “I finally managed to secure my first Cross Country Race this year, after a string of unlucky mishaps in the first two races. Patrick Scicluna and myself set a very high pace in the first lap in order to widen the gap and distance ourselves from the other riders, setting a lap record in the process. With Patrick having to slow down, I controlled the pace and my advantage in order to avoid the risk of punctures and mechanical failures”.
The Ladies race was dominated by Danica Bonello Spiteri, who having built a strong road racing CV is now focusing on building confidence and experience on off-road terrain. “Trying out the route a few days prior to the race gave me the opportunity to prepare well for this tough circuit, having raced it recently at Xterra, I was quite familiar with some of the tricky points” said Bonello Spiteri after the race. Tour ta’ Malta and Stage 1 and 2 winner Marie Claire Aquilina’s late start saw her miss out on a possible hat trick and had to be content with second place, whilst third place was taken up by Claudine Gatt.
In the Open category, previous stages winner Mark Zammit set the initial pace and looked as if he was heading towards another victory, however he fell victim to a puncture in the second lap losing precious time and a place on the podium in the process. The first two placings were taken up by Ryan Darmanin and Wayne Schembri – both having secured a placing in previous races. Third placed was Anton Muscat, who placed eighth in the first stage but gave a good show on the Majjistral circuit to go up the leader board.
The Masters Category produced an exciting duel between Gozo CC rider Domenic Cutajar and David Pace. In the end it was Domenic Cutajar who clinched the top place on the podium.
With the Series reaching the half way mark, a twenty-point gap stands between Elite riders Etienne Bonello and Patrick Sultana who is currently in second place. Third on the list is Brandon Sultana. However, from the action and drama experienced in the three races so far, there might still be some surprises in store! The Ladies Category is more of a sedate affair, with Marie Claire Aquilina still on top of the leader board – however Bonello Spiteri should be a force to be reckoned with and Aquilina should ensure not to let her guard down. Mark Zammit’s mechanical issues have seen him slip one place in the Open Category leader board, but with three races to go, the fight is far from over. Domenic Cutajar’s strong performances have given him top billing in the Masters category – whether this place is maintained in the coming races is still to be seen but interesting to watch.
The Fourth stage of the BDO Malta Cross Country Series is scheduled to take place on Sunday 2nd July in Selmun.
The 2017 Cross Country Series is being sponsored by BDO Malta and supported by Magri Cycles, Carm & Co Ltd (SIS products) and Island Beverages (H20nly).
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