CHARLIE ALDRIDGE clearly doesn’t subscribe to the “happy just to be there” approach often adopted by more cautious athletes ahead of their debut at a major event.

The 2019 world junior mountain bike champion was named last week as part of Team Scotland’s cycling group for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, a major milestone in the 21 year-old’s fledgling career.

Aldridge is quietly-spoken and polite to a fault but evidently has a clear focus on what he wants to achieve and a steely confidence in his ability to get there.

The cross-country event at the Games – set to take place in the Cannock Chase Forest near Birmingham – is expected to attract a high-calibre field but Aldridge sees no reason why it shouldn’t be him ascending to the top step of the podium come its conclusion.

“It was pretty exciting to have that news announced last week that I’d made the team for the Commy Games as I’d known for a while but couldn’t say anything,” he reveals.

“I told my family and a few mates but had to tell them not to put it on social media until it was official which it is now. And it’s only a couple of months away now so it’s almost upon us.

“I’m looking forward to being part of Team Scotland and getting to know some of the athletes from other sports and all supporting each other which will be interesting outside of the cycling bubble.

“They’re building a new course for it in Cannock Chase which should be good and I know that area pretty well which can only help.

“It’s my first Games but I’m going to be aiming to get a medal, that’s my goal. I’m expecting it’s going to be a congested field but you’ve got to go for gold, don’t you? If you’re going to enter a race then I always think you should be trying to win it if you can.

“I’ve had a pretty decent season so far. I’ve had a few wins on home soil and got tenth in the World Cup as well so I’ve been pleased with how it’s been going, despite a short setback when I got Covid.

“There are a lot more races happening again and that’s helped me. Some people can train hard for training’s sake but I’m someone who needs that end goal of a competition to keep me going.”

The longer-term picture looks appealing, too. Aldridge was at Glentress Forest in the Tweed Valley yesterday to mark the region being named as the ninth host – of both the mountain bike cross-country and marathon events – at next year’s UCI combined cycling world championships.

It’s shaping up to be a significant event in the 2023 calendar and the Crieff-based rider is determined to be a part of it.

“I’ve been riding this track for a while now so it’s great it’s getting this international recognition and is going to be used for such a major event,” added Aldridge, who was crowned under-18 Scottish champion around Glentress in 2018.

“The plans look great and I really want to be involved if I can. This is my last year in the under-23s so I’m really wanting to make that step up next year.

“Having the opportunity to compete in a world championships in front of a home crowd would be an incredible experience and it would be a dream come true to pull on a rainbow jersey.

“Glentress is known as being a brilliant destination for mountain biking and I think the riders and fans will be in for a real treat next year.”

Like many in his position, Aldridge is trying to juggle gaining an education while advancing his sporting aspirations at the same time. He has just completed his second year studying Mechanical Engineering at Edinburgh University, happy to be back home for the summer and able to spend more time on the bike and less with his head in the books.

“It’s been a bit of a stress juggling everything but I’m getting there!” he adds. “My studies are going okay although it’s pretty hard at times. I’m still able to cycle a lot thankfully. The Pentland Hills are great for the mountain bike or I can just get the road bike out and head around locally. There are some good spots around Edinburgh.

“Home for me is still Crieff so that’s where I’m based now for the summer. And I can just concentrate on cycling for a few months now and not have to worry about lectures and exams for a while.”