Fresh from his silver medal in the U23 race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Champs in Australia (and his many media commitments). Alan Hatherly went straight into preparation mode for the Cape Pioneer Trek. We had to use a special tactic to get him away fr
We share a burger with U23 World Champ silver medallist Alan Hatherly, and talk about DH, XCO and winning. And groupies.
So… you ordered that burger; are you actually going to eat it?
Well, I’m not going to let it go to waste. I did get a salad instead of the chips.
Do you get to eat at for free at Spur?
No! I’m sponsored by Spur Corporate, not the actual restaurants. Actually there’s a lot more to Spur than just steak ranches – they own 13 different food franchises, including Panarottis.
What’s the reaction been to your silver medal at World Champs?
It’s been really crazy. I’ve had to do a lot of interviews, in between a massive training block for my last part of the season. The result has definitely put me a little more on the international map.
Have you picked up any groupies since your silver medal?
That’s a weird question! And one with a simple answer… I have a girlfriend!
On a more serious note, what was your mindset going into Champs?
My plan was to always ride up front – no further back than fourth wheel, due to the dust. The conditions out there were really rough, so it took a lot of pre- race planning to optimise our race cooling methods and nutrition. My plan was to ride in a podium position throughout the race and see if I could make it when it came down to the decisive move. My preparation and form leading into World Champs were really good, which was key to my race confidence.
Did you believe beforehand that you could win a medal?
I believed it was possible, for sure – especially after getting a taste of silver at the Andorra World Cup round.
You got pretty close to [eventual winner] Sam Gaze at one point – did it surprise you that he pulled away from you the way he did?
It was a super- tactical race. The pace was hardly at full tilt until the last lap- and- a- bit. That’s where there were a couple of surges. Sam put in an attack and got a big gap quickly, but I thought it was way too hard, too soon. We time- trialled the last lap, with me chasing and him trying to stay away. In the end, he was just that bit stronger.
You’ve been on the radar for a few years now, and have gone from strength to
strength. What makes you keep improving?
It’s honestly just been racing internationally, and pinpointing where my strengths and weaknesses are at that level. I relocated to Cape Town this year, to better my training ground – and share an apartment with Matt Beers, who’s been my training partner all year. He’s an animal, and he’s really helped me elevate my training. I have a couple of things I can do better for 2018, so I’m excited to see if I can improve more, leading into the Commonwealth year!
Obviously, people are starting to call you ‘ The Next Burry Stander’. How does that make you feel?
Burry is our first South African XCO hero, and he was a role model to all of us. I looked up to him as I was coming through the ranks at a really young age, but unfortunately I was just a couple of years too young to have been able to ride with him, and understand the game at the level he did. I’m really proud to be considered the next Burry Stander, and to continue the legacy for South Africa – but hopefully, soon I’ll be considered the first Alan Hatherly as well.
You used to be a downhiller – why did you make the change?
XCO always appealed to me, as I was riding through the sport. But the major factor, I think, that made me make the final decision to dedicate my training to XCO was that it’s an Olympic sport, and the sponsorship/ team opportunities at the time were way greater than for DH.
Do you think the DH side of your skillset has given you an edge over other racers?
Yes, for sure. You can see it especially when it comes down to the final few laps of an XCO race. When everyone gets tired, I’m able to maintain the same flow as my earlier laps, while still being able to recover. DH has given me an important skillset, which will hopefully take me to the Elite podium one day.
What weaknesses do you need to iron out?
I think this off-season I’m going to focus on getting my body right, before I start my actual training for 2018. I have a couple of rehab issues from old injuries in my DH days, which I think if I could iron out would give me a couple more per cent improvement for 2018.
You’ll be racing U23 again in 2018. Are you feeling a strong campaign coming up?
I’m really looking forward to 2018. I think this year has been a really incredible year, racing up front at every World Cup; so for next year, I’m definitely going to be aiming for that World Cup podium, as well as making it to the medal positions at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Based on your current trajectory, do you see yourself on the top podium as an Elite?
That’s a difficult call to make right now. But ultimately, that is the long-term goal. I’m definitely working towards making it to that Elite podium as soon as possible!
I’m really proud to be considered the next Burry Stander – but hopefully, soon I’ll be considered the first Alan Hatherly.”