Gruelling weekend of racing for Team Spur

Marathon specialist Ariane Lüthi was up first in the Swiss National Marathon Championship.

Run over 137 kilometres with some 4000 metres of climbing it was always going to be a tough day in the saddle. Ariane went into the race in arguably her best form of the year and was feeling strong right from the gun. “Esther (Süss) was the clear favourite,” says Ariane, “having beaten me by something like 20 minutes in the previous marathon race, the Eiger Bike Challenge, 2 weeks ago, I knew I had to stick to her wheel.”

As expected, Süss attacked on the first climb, shortly after the start. “I managed to follow her and felt good up the first 1000 metres.” Ariane managed to get ahead and squeeze a small gap on the descent and, ironically, this would be her undoing on the day.

“When I got the gap I put my head down and really went for it,” she explains. “But, I went for it a little too hard and actually missed a turn on that downhill and just kept on riding on the main road without looking back.” It was only when she got all the way down the mountain that she realised she must’ve gone wrong. This meant she had to climb back up, which added an extra 300 metres of ascent and turned her day into 144 kms.

At this point it would’ve been easy to throw in the towel and call it a day. However, Ariane knew that in such a long race anything can happen, so she knuckled down and buried herself to race as hard as possible. “I made up a good few places, but was never really sure where in the field I was. At the end, the third placed rider was apparently less than a minute away, but I didn’t know because I never saw the her on course. So that was a little bit difficult to take because bronze was actually still up for grabs.”

After a gruelling day out, she eventually finished 6th overall (there were two Austrian riders in the field) and 4th in the Swiss Champs. While she obviously wasn’t happy with the result, she was satisfied in her efforts after the navigation error. “It is what it is, a silly mistake cost me, but I gave it my all.”

On Sunday it was the turn of XCO hotshot, Alan Hatherly. Alan lined up for the final World Cup of the 2017 season at Val di Sole in Italy. “We had some overnight rain and I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to effect the course,” Alan picks up the story. “The U23 women raced in the morning so that didn’t really allow us an opportunity to have a look at the course beforehand. You could judge by their bikes that it wasn’t that wet, though.”

“I felt really good from the start and, while the course was slightly wet, it was nothing worth worrying about.”

According to Alan the start was once again super fast, with that pace being sustained for nearly the first two laps. “The course didn’t suit me as much as I thought it would,” he explains. “The back half was really flat and I’ve been working a lot on my climbing speed so on the extended flats I struggled. I also ended up riding solo in-between the bunches on these flat sections which sort of didn’t play to my favour,” he says. Adding that the course was brutal because you had to be on the power all the way round.

“Very different to the other world cups where you could go maximal up the climbs and recover on the descents and then sort of repeat, this was sub-maximal for the whole way round.”

With about two laps to go the pace became too much and he had to drop back from around 10th to 15th and regain a rhythm. He worked steadily there and that was the position he finished in. “It’s obviously not where I wanted to be, but I spoke to John Wakefield, my coach, and we were happy with how it went, with the big goal being the UCI MTB World Championships in Cairns, Australia on 4-11 September’. This gives us some time to build up and nail World Champs.”

Alan’s goal for the World Cup series was to podium in the overall results. After Italy he managed to move up a few slots and ended up fifth in the U23 World Series. “This is my best overall World Cup series result, so I’m stoked with that and ready to take it forwards to World Champs.”

Although Alan finished fifth overall in the UCI MTB World Cup Series, his stellar performances at the African Continental MTB Champs, the South African XCO Nationals and his consistent showing at the UCI MTB World Cups, Alan is the highest ranked U23 rider. With this, Alan will line up at World Champs with the #1 board for his U23 race on Friday 8 September.

Lucky 13th for Hatherly in Canada

A valiant effort at Mont Sainte-Anne sees Alan Hatherly within reach of an overall series podium in the UCI U23 World Cup series, with one round remaining.

Visa delays saw Team Spur’s Alan Hatherly arrive in Mont Sainte-Anne, Canada only 15 hours before the start of the Men’s U23 race at the UCI XCO World Cup Round 5 on Sunday, 6 August. Battling jet lag and having briefly walked some sections of the course in pouring rain late the day before, Alan put on a solid performance to finish 13th after the six-lap race.

“I arrived late Saturday afternoon and then did a course walk with Simon (Andreassen, the Danish rider who ended up third) and managed to get a rough idea of what to expect for the race,” Hatherly explains. Luckily he had Team Spur’s mechanic, JP Jacobs along for the walk, and the two hatched a plan to set up the bike for raceday, without touching the track. Typically, Hatherly and Jacobs will work on perfecting bike setup for a World Cup race over a few days of riding the course.

“It was also bucketing down with rain,” Hatherly recalls. “But I managed to see a few lines on the really difficult sections to keep myself somewhat safe.”

Hatherly started the race on the front row and knew he was going to need to go flat out from the gun to have any chance of a good finish. “I managed to get a good start, but it was really crazy racing up front not knowing how long the climbs are or where the next corner was to stop guys from coming past,” he says.

Hatherly maintained his position in the start loop and into the first proper race lap, but then his trans-continental odyssey caught up with him and he faded. “I rode everything alright during the race, but the speed definitely wasn’t as fast as I would’ve liked it to have been,” he says. “My climbing speed was good – I didn’t lose any time there – and then tried to close the gaps on the descents.”

According to Hatherly his chest closed up slightly at the halfway mark, due to a combination of the long travel times and the serious race pace in the cool surrounds.

“This track is one of the gnarliest on the World Cup circuit, so riding it blind was really crazy. On the whole, I’m happy with 13th and just stoked it all worked out alright.”

Team Spur’s and Hatherly’s long-term season goal – to finish in the top three overall for the UCI U23 World Cup series – remains intact. As a result of his courageous race in Canada he now sits in fourth, 10 points off third, with the final round of the season in Val di Sole, Italy on 27 August.