Trawden’s Paul Oldham gave his Commonwealth Games hopes a huge boost by finishing as top Brit in the men’s elite section of the first cross-country UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa at the weekend.
The 36-year-old Hope Technology rider produced a terrific performance to finish 41st overall as he took on the six-lap 34.20 km race.
He finishing just 10:21 minutes behind the winner, Frenchman Julien Absalon of BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team, clocking 1:48:26, having made his way up the field, into the top 50 by lap two, before climbing to 47th, and finishing in 41st.
He had flown out the previous Sunday to South Africa to prepare for the event, although he had to recover from a nasty fall in course training, as he ended up requiring three stitches in his knee after a collision with a tree!
But he was pleased with his achievement, and said: “To get in the top 50n was my aim, but the whole point of going out there was to try and help my aim of Commonwealth Games selection.
“We have to meet the criteria of the selection panel, and to finish as top Brit can’t do any harm.
“I won’t be racing the full World Cup season - I’ll miss Australia, but compete in the Czech Republic and Germany in May, but this was my best World Cup finish as well.
“I’m getting too old now though and want to compete at a Games - the chances of doing that are getting shorter, so it’s all or nothing.”
Oldham’s event wasn’t held in Delhi four years ago, having been on the schedule at Manchester and Melbourne, and he is determined to get to Glasgow: “The hard work has been done now, in terms of training, it’s just a case of keeping myself fresh for races and keeping my form.
“I have two more meets in the British Series, before the World Cups in the Czech Republic and Germany, so I have four more big races before hopefully finding out whether I’ve made it at the beginning of June.”
Performances like that in South Africa will only aid his cause, and he looked back on the race: “I made a silly mistake on the Thursday when I needed three stitches after a collision with a tree, but it didn’t bother me really.
“I was gridded at the back, which makes it difficult as you can lose ground on the leaders if one person makes a mistake.
“I just had to keep my head down and climb as far up the pack as I could on what was a very technical course.”