(Mankele, Mbombela) Team Spur’s Alan Hatherly is the 2017 South African Elite men’s cross country champion. Racing with the #1 board from his consistent season at the SA XCO Cup series, Hatherly lead from start to finish over the 7-lap course at Mankele Bike Park in Mpumalanga to take the title ahead of Philip Buys in second and Matthys Beukes in third.
“I’m super stoked with the win, for myself and Team Spur” said the 21-year-old after the race. “I’ve been trying to win this for the past three years…”
Hatherly – who won the Elite African Continental title in May – returned from a successful European World Cup racing stint two weeks ago to prepare for SA Champs, but was forced to adjust his planned training schedule due to a bug he picked up during his return travels to South Africa.
“I was forced into a bit of an easier week of training, which timing-wise, I was a bit stressed about, but I think it eventually played into my favour because I got in some really good intensity this week and I managed to time everything perfectly.”
According to Hatherly, the Mankele course was super rough and technical, with a lot of sharp, loose rocks which forced some caution in various sections. “Playing it ‘safe’ tactically – to save the equipment – was super important today,” he said.
Hatherly still went full gas out of the gates – racing on a game plan whereby Alan would go 100% until halfway through the race and then reassess his game plan. “I knew Phil and Matthys as teammates were going to try play a tactical game, so I wanted to go all-in from the beginning until midway and then take it from there, to see where I was, and who was still around.”
“I went out super hard on the first two laps and by the end of the second lap I had a gap on Phil so I knew the pace I was setting was good enough,” he said. “I then tapped off to settle down into a good consistent rhythm and then I pretty much held that through to the end.”
“It was quite hot out there and the last half of the race was just about managing the conditions. I took ice socks from the guys and drank a bit more than usual just to try not to fade in the last lap,” Hatherly said, adding that his Specialized S-Works Epic was running super sweet thanks to the expertise of Team Spur’s Technical Manager and wrench wizard JP Jacobs.
Hatherly now heads off to Mont Sainte-Anne in Canada to continue his campaign on the UCI U23 World Cup circuit, where he is ranked sixth. “It’s been a good year so far and I’m looking forward to another hard week before I leave. The form is good and I’m hoping to do some damage there.”