Albstadt in Germany played host to the 2nd round of the UCI XCO World Cup. The course that greeted Team Spur riders Ariane Lüthi and Alan Hatherly was dominated by two long, lung-busting climbs, with the corresponding steep descents the only recovery riders could hope for. In previous years the ascent was divided among five smaller climbs.
U23 star Hatherly was excited to build on his solid first round sixth place in the previous weekend’s World Cup in the Czech Republic. Things started out brilliantly for the 21-year-old on Saturday afternoon: “I had a front row position again, number six this time,” says Alan, who positioned himself on the prime left hand side of the start line. “I managed to holeshot off the front into the lead group – which formed quite quickly – and topped out on the first climb in second or third.”
During that first climb Alan looked around to gauge his opponents. “Surprisingly I saw that everyone was hurting quite a bit. As we entered the tech zone the guys sat up slightly to recover before the last climb and the drop down into the start-finish area,” he says.
Alan was still within his limits and rolled through the tech zone at a steady pace, rather than making a concerted break. “I got to the top of the climb with about an eight-second lead,” he says. “I bombed down the descent toward the start-finish and the guys didn’t close at all, I think it was about 10 seconds at that point.”
At the top of the next climb Alan further extended his lead to 15 seconds, but then disaster struck. “I came into a narrow left corner before a ski jump drop on the descent,” he says. “The corner was just littered with loose rocks from the lead motorbike which was obviously trying to get a gap from me.”
The rocks forced Alan off course and when he re-entered the bunting tape got caught in his rear wheel and melted onto the hot discs of his rear brakes without him knowing.
“JP (Jacobs) Team Spur’s Technical Manager, took the tape out in the tech zone and I was lying in about third at this point. We made our way up the climb and entered the off camber descent, when I was fully committed I grabbed the back brake and there was nothing at all,” Alan says. The result was a washed out front wheel which saw him skid down the rocks on his ribs. “I got up and rolled down slowly to the bottom using the front brake, only.”
JP changed the wheel in the tech zone and Alan got rolling again, however it took about two laps for the back brake to start working again. “We didn’t know what the problem was, it was as though there was no back brake. It was very frustrating for me trying to fight back as the track didn’t allow for any overtaking,” he says.
Alan pushed hard to cross the line in 34th place and can take some consolation from his strong finish. But it will be his electrifying start in Albstadt that Alan will draw on for motivation at the next event in Andorra in a month’s time. “At least I know the form is good. I lead for a while and at quite a comfortable pace. It’s a tough one to process because I had done a fast lap the day before (the race) and the time was much faster than the average lap time of the leaders, so it was a podium opportunity, I reckon.”
Our marathon specialist, Ariane Lüthi, made her 2017 UCI World Cup debut in Albstadt the following day, but it was a day on the bike she would rather forget. “I felt strong on the start and was confident of a good race, but unfortunately my legs didn’t deliver what was needed in a World Cup,” she says, explaining how she worked hard to overtake in the early laps and then paid for it later on. “I blew a little there and maybe ate too little or too late”. Ariane ended the day in 55th place.
Ariane now focuses on training in Switzerland, her country of birth, ahead of the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships on 25 June, back in Germany.