Hatherly raring to go at MTB World Champs in Australia

Some insights on the course from SA’s U23 podium contender ahead of race day.

(Cairns, Australia) Make no mistake, this is it. The world’s best cross-country racers may do battle month in and month out across Europe and America during the World Cup Season, but World Champs is different. A year’s worth of bragging rights is at play, national pride is on the line. And no one can ever take away those rainbow stripes…

On the back of his most successful UCI World Cup series yet – fifth overall in the U23 series – Team Spur’s Alan Hatherly is in Australia for the big dance. Hatherly is settled in, has acclimatised well and is ready to race. Earlier this week he had a chance to walk the XCO track in Cairns with Team Spur’s technical manager, JP Jacobs, who is also the mechanic for Team South Africa. These are his thoughts:

“Before we rode it, it was already super broken up and dusty,” Alan says. “The surface just below the dust is a kind of hardpack rock however, so even if it breaks up completely it is just the top layer that will stay loose.”

According to Alan the course is surprisingly technical and made even more so by how fast it is.

“It’s sort of like wide open from the start and then you come straight into a few technical sections really fast have where you have to jump on the brakes, negotiate the section and then get back on the gas right away.”

In addition the course features one major climb as well as a jump section, both of which play to Alan’s strengths. “The climb is switchbacked with quite a bit of rocks and ledges that you have to thoroughly concentrate on,” he explains. “But accelerating into and out of each corner fits my style of riding – there must be over 10 switchbacks on that climb, I think it’s about a 4-minute climb at race pace, so I’m targeting that.”

“From there it is a nice long technical descent and then to finish the lap, before you head back into the tech zone, there is a long jump section which is really awesome – the jumps are all in the middle, with the B line on the outside, so you’re really going to gain ground if you send it.”

According to Alan it has been hot all week, so that will be a factor on the day: “If you go out really hard you will pay the price a lot sooner than you would in a ‘normal’ World Cup race, partially because being in the forest the entire time is where the humidity is a lot higher.”

“I’m feeling confident though and the bike is running super smooth thanks to JP. I can’t wait for race day.”

As the highest UCI-ranked U23 rider in the world Alan will have prime position on the front row of the start grid. Alan’s strong World Cup season and Elite South African and African Continental XCO Championship titles earned him a ton of UCI points earlier in the year. However, he’ll wear the No 2 plate in the race as the No 1 plate goes to New Zealand’s 2016 U23 World Champion, Sam Gaze.

Alan and the U23 Men race at 2:30pm local time tomorrow (Friday, 8 September). The racing will be covered on Team Spur’s twitter page as there is no live video feed. Set your clock for 6:30am SA time.

The UCI MTB World Champs kicked off for the individual riders today, with the Junior Men’s and Women’s races. South Africa had three contenders, all graduates of the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League: Tiffany Keep placed 37th in the Junior Women’s race, while Pieter du Toit finished 41st and Johann Trotzky came home in 47th in the Junior Men.