By Mark Etheridge
Former African Youth Games champion and Rio Olympics cyclist, Alan Hatherly, has taken another giant step in his career as he racked up his first World Cup podium in Europe.
Hatherly took second in the UCI MTB World Cup Under-23 cross-country race in Vallnord, Andorra.
Formerly from Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, but competing out of Cape Town in recent weeks, Hatherly clocked 1hr 17min 15sec to end up just one second behind world champion Simon Andreassen of Denmark, and 10sec ahead of Latvia’s third-placed Martins Blums.
Hatherly had a second row start as No 11 and was quick out of the blocks. ‘I got a really good start and pushed to about sixth at the top of the first climb.
‘I then lost a bit of time as my confidence wasn’t quite the same after some racing in the wet, but these conditions were dry so I got the confidence back after a few laps.
‘The main thing was knowing where my limits were and not going too deep too soon because at 2000m altitude you’re going to pay for that.
‘So I paced myself well and managed to pull back to third after two laps , with a bit of a gap (around 15sec) to the two guys in front and those behind of me.
‘There were a few sections where I could see how I was comparing each lap, so I was doing the same times each lap but was able to know where I could go faster.
‘I managed to bridge across to the two leaders with two laps to go.’
And that’s where things really started heating up for the 21-year-old. ‘We played cat and mouse and then two guys rolled across to us so there were five of us.
‘Towards the last half of the last lap I went really hard, well everyone was going flat out through the last tech zone and last climb up to the finish.
‘Myself and Simon then rode away with that hard effort and when we hit the tar we both sprinted with jelly legs, but I came second about two bike lengths off.
‘Now I’m already looking forward to Lenzerheide next week.’