Team Spur’s Alan Hatherly won Bronze in the Men’s Cross-country mountain bike race for Team South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Australia earlier today, Thursday 12 April. Hatherly finished third in a time of 1:17:56 behind the New Zealand duo of Sam Gaze (1:17:36) and Anton Cooper (1:17:36).
The result took Team South Africa’s medal count at the games to 28 and comes just two months after Hatherly fractured both wrists in a high speed crash at the three-day Tankwa Trek stage race. After a flying start with Gaze powering to the front, and only Hatherly and fellow Kiwis Cooper and Ben Oliver able to keep pace, the field was blown to pieces and the stage set for an exhilarating battle for the medals. By the end of Lap 3, Hatherly, Gaze and Cooper had burnt off Oliver who dangled in no-mans land for the remainder of the race to come home in fourth.
No stranger to the intense energy of an international games environment, having represented South Africa at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Hatherly knew he’d have his hands full containing two of the world’s fastest Elite mountain bikers. Cooper (in 2015) and Gaze (in 2017) are both past U23 World Champions and were also Gold and Silver at the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, with Cooper having the edge on Gaze in a two-up sprint.
According to Hatherly it was super tactical right from the start gun, especially with the three Kiwis in the mix. “I’m really happy with the result, considering eight weeks ago I suffered a broken radius and cracked wrist,” Hatherly commented after the race. “It went smoothly and I am happy to be on the podium.”
“I think it was around Lap 3 where I decided to put one big lap in to try split us up a bit more,” he said. It proved to be a decisive move and with two laps to go it was a three-horse race. “That left Sam, Anton and I to eye-ball each other throughout the rest of the race.”
“I felt really good out there,” he added, explaining that the wrists which had their first race run at the second round of the South African XCO Cup less-then two weeks ago, held up well to the demands of world-class racing.
The three riders jostled for position throughout the remainder of the race and it wasn’t until the final lap where the racing exploded.
“Sam had a rear-wheel puncture and was forced to stop to re-inflate it. Anton took off immediately and it became one hot lap to finish it all off.” said Alan. Gaze, who now sat in third, was quick to hop back on the bike as he hunted down the leaders. As they made their way up the penultimate rocky climb, Alan showed his class as he made way for a charging Gaze. Alan sat in third and continued to chase, but started feeling the effects of such intense efforts. “I started to feel the arms a bit at the end but it is expected after such a tough race. I am very happy to bring it home in third for South Africa.”