Top 20 for Ariane Lüthi at UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championship

(Singin, Germany) Team Spur’s marathon specialist, Ariane Lüthi finished 16th in one of the most closely contested Marathon World Champs in recent history on Sunday 25 June.

“It was really fast and furious race,” Lüthi commented afterward. “It was very tactical too, so in the start loop of 31-kilometres the women went really hard,” she said.

“Up the first climbs the pace was furious and I dropped back a bit, but managed to catch back up the the lead bunch thanks to some fast downhilling and cornering,” she said.

Lüthi stayed in contact with the lead bunch until the 55km mark when there was a big move up front. “We hit probably the longest, steepest climb of the race up a grass field,” she explains.

“I dropped back there and tried hard to fight back up but just couldn’t make up the time.”

She was disappointed with the result but remained philosophic. “I’m not super happy – you always want to try better your results – but that would’ve been difficult in this race because it was definitely one of the most competitive world champs yet.”

“I played my game as well as possible and kept pushing, but it is what it is.”

“Congrats to Annika (Langvad) for winning world’s again. After what she has done that is really impressive.”

From here, Ariane prepares for the next two UCI XCO World Cups which take place on the 2nd and 9th of July in Andorra and Lenzerheide respectively.

 

Emphatic SA Cup Series hat-trick for Alan Hatherly

(Pietermaritzburg) Team Spur’s Alan Hatherly is the undisputed king of XCO racing in SA. The young Olympian claimed his third victory on the trot for the season as he won the fourth round of the SA XCO MTB Cup Series in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, on Saturday.

Despite still being eligible to race in the U23 category for another year, his start-to-finish win on the demanding Cascades track sealed the 2017 SA XCO Cup Elite Men’s title, his third in as many years.

“The race went really well,” said the 21-year-old who recently returned from a successful European campaign. “I managed to get the hole shot from the start and pretty much lead from there all the way through to the end.”

According to Hatherly he was preparing for a ding-dong battle with Pyga-Euro Steel’s front-man Philip Buys. But Buys suffered a pinch flat in the first lap, effectively taking him out of the hunt for a win.

“From there I was pretty much racing myself,” Hatherly says. “I managed to go through the first lap, with roughly a 20-second gap and managed to extend it by about that much on each lap.”

While the win and hat-trick of SA Cup overall series titles satisfied Hatherly, it is where his form and preparation is for his second block of European racing which made him really happy.

“My form is really good,” he says. “I struggled with a bit of illness after I got back from the first block of European racing so I didn’t manage to get quite what I wanted from that first week back (in terms of training) but I did manage to get a lot of volume and strength work in leading up to this event,” he says, explaining how he felt it on the day. “I definitely wasn’t as sharp and fast as I would’ve liked to have been, but in a way that is good. I’d rather do some crazy speed work this week and then taper nicely for the next block of World Cup races.”

Hatherly leaves for Europe on 25 June as he heads into the Andorra and Lenzerheide legs of the UCI XCO MTB World Cup series, before returning to South Africa in July to support the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League and compete for the national jersey at the South African Championships.

Hatherly and McDougall dominate XCO Cup Final

The final round of the SA National MTB Cup Series XCO took place at the world class Cascades MTB Park on Saturday 17 June. Team Spur’s Alan Hatherly displayed his phenomenal speed and skill set on a bike to once again take the top honours in the Elite Men’s race and claim the overall Cup Series win. The Elite Women’s race was won by marathon rider Amy Beth McDougall, and Cameron Wright (AUS) and Tiffany Keep took home the Junior titles on the day.

Hatherly has had an outstanding season so far, and chatted about the hard work he’s put in behind the scenes. “I’ve been racing flat out since the age of eight it has always been a massive passion for me, so going out and having a big social life has never been a huge priority, but my move to Cape Town has been very good for me training-wise,” he said.

He mentioned and appreciated the encouragement and help received with training rides from housemate and mountain bike enthusiast Matt Beers. “Training in Durban by myself last year was great, but when racing against myself, I could never push myself, so it’s nice to have someone to ride with and test yourself against,” he said.

Hatherly has mixed up his training routine dramatically, and also stressed the importance of lots of sleep.

Hatherly thanked his team, and the dedication that they give to every detail of the cross-country bikes, making sure that at every race he and his bike are fully prepared to give it horns.

Pyga Eurosteel’s Philip Buys made a phenomenal come back to fight hard each lap after a mechanical early on in the race to grab the second spot from 15th position. After another impressive ride, the third place position on the day went to Jan Withaar.

 

The Elite Women’s title went to Valencia’s Amy Beth McDougall, with OMX Pro Team’s Mariske Strauss and Bianca Haw (Red Bull) crossing the line in second and third respectively. “I knew I was in quite good form but I haven’t races cross-country for a while. I did two races last year but before that, the last time was in 2013,”said McDougall.

McDougall had no idea what her form was like in this particular discipline, and sat with Cup Series leader Strauss until the fourth lap. “I felt strong and so I pushed harder and didn’t look back,” she added.

Off to Germany next week to take place in the World MTB Marathon Championships, McDougall will also be taking part in two cross-country cups while in Europe. “I’m glad I got to see where I was on a cross-country track, and today’s race just reminded me of why it will always be my first love,” she concluded.

In the Junior Women’s category, first year Junior Tiffany Keep (PAW) powered to first place after an incredible ride and managed to finish her four laps in under an hour. Keep loved her race at Cascades and said that it is always a challenge for her. Keep holds on to the elements of fun on the bike but acknowledged the focus needed when transitioning between Youth and Junior. She said: “This year has really been about scouting the age group and just seeing what its all about. The jump from Youth to Junior is quite a big one in the greater scheme of things overseas, as the girls take it very seriously and the racing is really tough. Its an important year, and the first year we’re able to qualify for World Champs and earn points in the Junior World Serious. So although you need to have fun out there, you still need to work hard to try and earn those points.”

In the Junior Men’s race, former KwaZulu-Natal local and Australian Junior National Champion, Cameron Wright beat Rossouw Bekker and Johann Trotzky in second and third to take the title. He said: “I wasn’t keen for the lengthy flight – it’s a long way and 24 hours of traveling, and getting flu on top of it all wasn’t ideal, but coming back to race on my old home track against some of my mates and definitely a few new faces out as well was awesome. The race went to plan for me today – just hold it from the beginning and make sure nobody follows me.” Wright heads back to Australia on Sunday evening.

Also taking place on Saturday morning was a Development Day held for keen young riders from various districts around the province. These riders raced against their peers on a track parallel to parts of the national track. Whilst improving their bike and competition skills, everyone who took part was able to also watch the some of the professional action taking place, providing much exposure to the sport of mountain biking.

Ariane Lüthi’s World Marathon Champs preparation on track

Team Spur’s marathon expert Ariane Lüthi has been finalising preparations for the UCI World Marathon Championships in Germany later this month. Over the weekend she added a race-pace effort to the schedule with the iconic 60km Elsa Bike Trophy in Switzerland.

“It was a beautifully, hot day,” says Ariane. “Probably the hottest day in Switzerland thus far this year.” Having spent so many years based out of Stellenbosch in the summer months these were ideal race conditions for her. “It was a really fast race in comparison to past years where it was rainy and cold,” she explains.

The race format features a mass start with Elite men and women combined, meaning that if you catch a fast train up the early climb, and then manage to hang on, you’re set for a good result on the day. “Ester (Süss) got away on that first climb I couldn’t stay with her,” Ariane says. “She was flying.”

It then turned into a battle for second place, with Ariane and Cornelia Hug riding together just about all the way to the end. “Cornelia managed to get a little gap on me somewhere in the first 10kms or so, but then she crashed as she washed out in a corner and I could catch back up. We then rode together the entire rest of the course,” she says.

It was a yo-yo affair Ariane explains: “Cornelia was a little bit faster on the climbs, but I managed to close in again on the downhills and more technical sections and then I just stuck to her wheel.”

They came to the finish together and it was always going to be a sprint. The finish is rather tricky though, with a left turn out of a roundabout and then a slight drag up to the line. “You have to jump after that corner if you want to sprint, but there were a few people in the way which was a bit messy and frustrating for me.”

After a tight finish, Cornelia finished second, behind Süss, with Ariane rounding out the podium. She was happy with the result and is looking forward to UCI World Marathon Champs on 25 June in Singen, Germany.

“I started working with a mental coach and I tried to put that into practice on the day. I think it made quite a bit of a difference!” she said.