Alan Hatherly kicked off his Elite World Cup season on Friday 17 May with the Short Track (XCC) at the opening round of the 2019 season in Albstadt, Germany. After a good showing of form, Alan finished the XCC in twelfth place. Entering Sunday’s XCO on the second row, Alan was excited to see what he could do in the Elite ranks.
In his first ever short track race, Hatherly showed he had the legs to stick with the top contenders. A strong start put Alan in a good position for the rest of the race as he sat with the front bunch of riders as the pace surged. Following moves, and sticking to wheels, Hatherly kept his calm amongst the blistering pace of the lead bunch. It was until eventual winner, Mathieu van der Poel put in a decisive attack on the penultimate lap where Hatherly dropped back. Alan crossed the line in twelfth place and would enter the XCO on the second row. Goal one of the weekend had been completed.
Unfortunatly the weather did not play along and Saturday night showers brought some indecisiveness into Hatherly’s pre-race preparation. “That was the craziest race ever.” Joked Hatherly as he reflected on his race. “I was lulled into a bit of false hope as we had no rain during the week, but after seeing the rain we had overnight I started to make some changes for a wet track.” With the U23 and Elite Womens races in the morning before the Elite Men, the course compacted and lost it’s slipperiness. “The course became tacky and fast so I opted for some wider tyres to try give me an edge.” explained Hatherly.
The forecasted rain began to fall on cue as riders lined for the start, only adding to the nervous tension. “I got a bit boxed in at the start and didn’t have the greatest sensations for the start loop and lap one. It’s the worst time to not be firing as this is where the race is determined.” described Alan. The blistering pace by Switzerland’s Nino Schurter on lap one made the start that much more difficult as Alan fought to hold onto his position.
Soon after the riders had left the start, the rain came down in torrential fashion and the course turned into a slip and slide. As some of the best riders in the world fought for grip, it was anyone’s game. Alan found himself in around fortieth place but he was not ready to throw in the towel just yet. “With around forty minutes of racing left, my legs came back a bit and I managed to move up slightly, but it was too late for anything significant.” explained Hatherly. “All-in-all, to finish thirty-seventh in my first elite race I am not completely disappointed and I definitely know there is a better result to show for the form I have.” The Albstadt course certainly delivered an exciting first race of the season. The muddy conditions are not something South Africans are too familiar with as Hatherly explains. “I definitely lost time on the descents having not raced in the mud at all this year. So maybe I am a bit more rusty in muddy conditions than I expected.”
Riders and teams will spend most of Monday as a travel day while they move to the second stop on the calendar in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, a favourite track for many of the riders. With a third place in 2018 in the U23 category, Hatherly certainly knows the speed at which he can compete on the technical course. “I am excited to get on my S-Works Epic Full-susension this week and to spend some time on one of my favourite tracks.” says Hatherly.
The addition of the Short Track in the elite category, has made a short World Cup block into something more substantial. “I think having the extra racing is a good thing as it gives me four chances to race against the Elites and get used to the pace. I am excited and the motivation is high for this week.”
Official course practice opens on Thursday, while Friday and Sunday remain the major focus for Short Track and XCO respectively.