Team Spur’s Alan Hatherly finished second in the U23 Men’s race at Round 3 of the UCI XCO World Cup in Andorra on Sunday, 2 July. Hatherly put together a near-perfect tactical race to work his way up from a start on the second row and narrowly missed out on the top step in a riveting sprint to the line with former Junior World Champ Simon Andreassen.
Vallnord in Andorra – a tiny, mountainous principality in between France and Spain – is arguably one of the most beautiful venues on the World Cup circuit. The 4km course is surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Pyrenees mountains and features natural, forested tracks and exposed climbs. At nearly 2000m above sea level the race is held at the highest altitude of all World Cups.
“I started in 11th, but still managed to get a really good start,” the 21-year-old South African said after the race. “From there I pushed my way through to about sixth by the top of the first climb.”
According to Hatherly he lost a bit of time on the rocky descent as his confidence wasn’t where he would’ve liked it on the day. “I’d had one or two silly crashes in the build-up – because it had been so wet [during practice] – which threw me off a little bit. Fortunately it was dry on the day and I got my confidence back after a few laps.”
The Andorran altitude was always going to be a factor and Hatherly managed it perfectly. “The key was just knowing where my limit was and not going too deep too early on, because you definitely pay the price for that at 2000m,” he said.
Hatherly paced himself into third place as they entered the second lap, and found himself isolated between the lead pair – Denmark’s Andreassen and Latvia’s Martins Blums – and a chasing bunch. “I had a gap of about 15 seconds on the guys behind me and up front they were also about 15 seconds ahead. I found reference points on each lap which I used to check to see if I was closing the gap or not.”
Hatherly realised he was lapping at about the same speed as the leaders, but was learning where on the track he could make up time. “With about three laps to go I started exploiting these areas and managed to bridge across to the two leaders. With two laps to go things heated up and we sort of played a bit of cat-and-mouse as we tried to work out who would make a move,” he says.
This allowed the chase bunch to catch up as the group grew to five for the final lap. “There were a couple attacks that went and I knew they were way too hard and too early in the lap, so I sort of just paced myself out and then in the second half of the lap I went super hard.”
According to Hatherly there was a massive wind-up toward the finish with everyone still in touch: “We went flat-out through the last tech zone and up the final little climb,” Hatherly explained.”Then we [Hatherly and Andreassen] rode away and entered the final tar stretch together where we both tried to sprint with absolute jelly legs. He managed to pip me with two bike lengths.”
“It’s been a great week here and I’m really looking forward to Lenzerheide! On to the next one.”