The first two UCI XCO World Cups of the season are upon us, and oh boy, are we in for an exciting start to the season. Alan Hatherly is in a chilly Albstadt, Germany as he readies himself for his first year as an Elite rider. The opening round kicks off this evening, with Round Two crossing over to Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic next weekend.
The familiar Albsatdt course which is known for its punchy and steep climbs, has received a major overhaul this year. “The organizers have made the track a lot smoother and faster, so spectator wise it should make for more exciting racing.” described Alan. “I’m looking forward to getting on my new hardtail this weekend, I think it will be much faster on the climbs and with the more manicured trails you don’t need as much support from the full-suspension.”
Hatherly’s first challenge will come on Friday evening at 18:15 (SA time) for the Short Track race (XCC). This flat out thirty minute dash is an exciting race to watch as the finish order determines where riders will line up for Sunday’s Cross-Country Race (XCO). “I’m quite nervous for the Short Track, it will be my first one so I’m not too sure what to expect other than some burning legs.” joked Hatherly. “I will be starting on the second row so that should put me in a good position for a top finish.” Riders who finish in the top twenty four will be treated to a start on the front three rows for the XCO- this would be a dream come true for any first year Elite rider. A slight change from the UCI this year sees the short track numbers being issued from twenty five onwards, leaving numbers one to twenty four to be re-issued to the top finishers ahead of the XCO on Sunday.
The main event starts at 14:35 on Sunday as the Elite Men line up for their 7 laps of the fast course. “I’m excited to get the World Cups underway, I think I’ve fully recovered from the Cape Epic and managed to transfer the fatigue into some solid form and get the speed going again.” explained the 2018 U23 World Champion. The first World Cup often delivers an exciting showdown as riders are eager to display their form and ability. Add in the stress of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and we have a recipe for incredible racing.
Alongside the changes to the track, the weather forecast has been on everyone’s minds. With day time temperatures consistently hitting around six degrees, and rain scheduled for Friday and Sunday, we are sure to see some fireworks. “Coming from Cape Town where I’ve been riding in eighteen degrees, it’s been a big shock to ride in such cold temperatures.” described Alan. “Albstadt is probably the slipperiest course in the wet so I think it will create havoc if the rain does come through.” Despite the cool temperatures, Hatherly is in good form for his weekend exploits. “I did some opening intervals earlier this week and I hit all the numbers I was looking for.” reflected Hatherly. “That definitely calms the nerves somewhat, but the buzz you get on the start line will no doubt be just as noticeable.”
With both the Elite Short Track and XCO races streamed live on Red Bull TV, be sure to watch all the action and keep an eye out for Alan’s SA Champs jersey here.