CHARLIE ALDRIDGE has begun 2020 in quite a different frame of mind to that of a year ago.

As the 2019 season approached, Aldridge was carrying injuries and so as a result, was somewhat unsure of what he could achieve over the coming year.

He need not have worried though. The cross-country mountain biker achieved something he never thought possible at the start of the season; he became junior world champion and in the process, made history by becoming the first British man to win a cross-country mountain biking world title.

It was quite an accolade for the teenager from Crieff and he admits that becoming world champion was well beyond his expectations.

“It was such an eye-opening year,” said Aldridge about 2019.

“Going into the year, I started off injured and had some time off and I never thought I could have got the results I got. It was pretty amazing.

“I came 16th in the World Champs the previous year so I thought I could probably do better than that but really, I just wanted to win a couple of junior World Series and maybe get a few top-5s. I never thought I’d be able to do what I did.

“Just before the British Champs, which is about two months before the Worlds, I fell off and cut my knee open so that put me out of the British Champs. And then after that, I had a rubbish race at the European Champs because I still had the knee injury. So I was on the back foot the whole time.

“So I thought okay, I’ll focus really hard on the Worlds and train really, really hard and see how it goes. Going into the Worlds, I really didn’t know how it was going to go.”

Aldridge began mountain biking around his home in Perthshire, which is where he is still based, but and while it may be track cycling and road racing that gets the bulk of the attention from the media in this country, Aldridge never considered going out on the road.

And while he does do some training on the road these days to boost his fitness, it is going out on trails that remains his real passion.

Cross-country mountain biking is thrilling to watch, in no small part as a result of the crashes. But that side of the sport is one of the things that has always attracted Aldridge to it. And a crash has never deterred him.

“The danger is definitely part of the attraction, as well as the technical side, where I challenge myself, is great. I really enjoy pushing myself like that,” he said.

“I’ve definitely had some falls – I fell off in Marseille and dislocated my shoulder and I cut my knee open pretty badly ahead of the British Champs last year. I’ve had several crashes but nothing too bad so far.

“After a crash, I’ll not push too hard but then you get back into racing and the adrenaline gets to you and you forget all about it. I’m never very put off by a crash. If anything, I feel really embarrassed and feel like I need to redeem myself.”

As world champion, Aldridge now has far greater expectation upon his shoulders but having moved up an age-group, to the under-23 category, means there is considerable less pressure on his shoulders to get results immediately.

His season begins in earnest next month, with the World Cups his major focus over the next year.

And although he has not reached the senior ranks just yet, already his mind has turned to representing Scotland and GB on the biggest stages of all.

“The Commonwealth Games coming up in Birmingham in 2022 as well as the Olympics in 2024 are definitely a target for me,” he said.

“When I was growing up, I never thought I’d be looking to get to the Olympics and things like that. But actually, mountain biking is more based around the World Championships and World Cups so that has always probably been more in my mind as my goals.”