The newly crowned Under 23 World Champion and two-time Junior World Champion, Alan Hatherly and Simon Andreassen, ignited the racing on Stage 1 of the FNB Wines2Whales Shiraz on Friday, 2 November. They could however not able to complete the victory, despite holding the lead heading into the final ten kilometres. A hunger-flat for Hatherly saw their lead evaporate and the pair eventually finished second to NAD Pro MTB’s Matt Beers and Wessel Botha. After the stage, with his season wrapping up Hatherly was in a reflective mood.
Since his World Championships victory Hatherly has experienced an understandable surge in media attention, but the Team Spur rider remains as level headed as ever. “Ja, you know everyone goes on about the World Championship title, and it’s been a career goal for sure. But I am who I am and it hasn’t really changed how I approach anything” he opened following the first stage of FNB Wines2Whales.
“It is a big thing for me, being the Spur Mountain Bike League ambassador and being able to inspire the kids; showing them that being a World Champ one day is possible. But everything has continued as normal. I did a build-up for Pioneer with Simon (Andreassen) and now we’re here at Wines2Whales. I felt good for two hours out of the three today, but there are still another two days of racing…” Hatherly reflected while finishing off a Spur Burger.
The opening stage had not gone to plan and a hunger-flat had left him low on energy. This allowed stage winners, Beers and Botha, to reel in a 90 second deficit and establish close on a 3 minute lead between the final water point, at 50 kilometres, and the finish line, at 69 kilometres.
While his processes as a rider might not have changed, Hatherly’s World Title win has opened more professional doors. “It’s been a nice end to the year and it’s lined up one or two big things – which hopefully will come out in the next few weeks. I’ve pretty much got a good plan going forward, through to Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It’s my long term goal to get a top five there.”
Having placed second, to New Zealander Sam Gaze in the 2017 World Championships Hatherly was surprised to note what a difference one position has made. “I was second to Sam Gaze, by 10 seconds, last year and I didn’t get any offers. I got one or two personal sponsors, to help me race a full World Cup season. Spur has been incredible to us, allowing us to race a full World Cup season – but if you compare it to the big factory teams, their budgets are almost unlimited compared to ours. Then when you win World Champs everyone wants to know you. It is a completely different thing. The win has really put me on the map and opened doors for me. It has actually given me a couple of options to plan and choose where I want to go and what I want to do, which is really good for me.”
“Stepping into a bit of global support from Specialized was great this year, seeing how they operate” the Team Spur rider said. “But the real win was being able to take the team, Tim Bassingthwaighte and JP Jacobs, with me. Having my go-to mechanic and the guys I worked with the whole previous year meant we were starting off on a good platform this year. That was a big positive, from the get-go, and having that support if something did go wrong helped create peace of mind for us. At our level you can only really perform at your best when you are around the people who allow you to be the most relaxed and the most confident. It’s all about believing you can do it. And while we put so much effort into training, being mentally prepared is so crucial. Having that familiar support system is really important.”
“All things considered, with my injury in February; then the Commonwealth bronze medal and my first World Cup win, taking it through to World Champs it was a really great year. For myself, the team and for Specialized” Hatherly reflected on the season which wraps up after FNB Wines2Whales.
“With Commonwealth Games, in April, for a South African it makes the season very long. CSA started looking at who they are going to select from January/February already. So you’re under pressure from January all the way through. I haven’t taken much rest this year. But we’re looking for a good result here at Wines2Whales to finish off the season” he continued.
“We are in second, but there are still two days to go and I think the singletrack days really suit us. So I’m hoping we can turn the deficit around.”