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Hatherly races to World Championships silver Down Under

Hatherly

By Mark Etheridge

Lead character John ‘Hannibal’ Smith of the A-Team television series loved it when a plan comes together – so does South African Olympian Alan Hatherly.

The Team Spur cyclist raced to silver in the Under-23 XCO race at the UCI MTB World Championships in Cairns, Australia, on Friday.

‘Right now I’m kinda lost for words, but still really stoked at getting silver,’ the 2014 African Youth Games champion told Team SA website shortly after his race, where New Zealander Sam Gaze grabbed gold in a time of 1hr 17min46sec, 11sec clear of him.

‘This was our plan from early on this year.. no complaints today, just an awesome day and a massive, massive thanks to everyone along the way who helped get me to where I finished today… I really couldn’t have done it without you all.’

The humble 21-year-old, originally KwaZulu-Natal-based, but now riding out of Cape Town, said he had been confused by the pace in the early stages.

Going on to share his silver-medal experience with Team SA he said: ‘ It’s been super hot here this week, but it’s ended great.

‘We factored the conditions into our game plan and had ice bottles and ice towels for the warm-up.

‘The start loop was super fast, but I had a good start, first call-up also helped me get the best possible start position.’

After rolling through start-finish, Hatherly made sure he was no further back than third wheel ‘because it gets quite technical quickly with no room for overtaking.

‘From there I just stayed there and things were fast and smooth. But still, I was a bit confused by that pace because it honestly didn’t feel like the guys were going all out. It was all just a bit weird. Then we dropped back into that start-loop which was around 1.5km of flat and things were all very tactical.. we all sat up and looked at each other.’

A group of seven formed up front and again, Hatherly held his nerve and sat just off the pace in around third-wheel.

But if the early pace wasn’t hot, it got real on lap four.

‘Sam went a bit harder up the main climb and the guys lost his wheel. I panicked a bit because there wasn’t really any overtaking spot. The main climb was split up between a more challenging, but straighter rock route section, or a more roundabout option, which gives more speed. I chose the the more direct route so he didn’t get too far ahead.

‘Then we rode together for a lap or so and then at the top of the climb Sam got out of the saddle and kicked really hard. I couldn’t react instantly, but knew if I rode steady I’d maybe have a chance.

‘He got that 10-second gap which I just made sure I held for the last lap.’

Gaze’s victory meant that he defended the title he won in Czech Republic last year.

On that occasion, Hatherley ended 17th, 5min 30sec in arrears, and Friday’s fine ride shows just how much ground South Africa’s rising star has made up over the last 12 months.

Picture of the U23 podium courtesy of © Michal Červený


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