Gold Coast - South Africa’s Alan Hatherly won bronze in the men’s mountain bike cross-country event at the Commonwealth Games on Thursday.
According to the Team SA website, it is South Africa’s first Commonwealth Games medal in this event.
Hatherly finished third after a titanic struggle against a powerhouse New Zealand team.
Kiwi Sam Gaze, the man who beat Hatherly to silver at last year’s World U23 MTB cross-country championships, did so again with a time of 1hr 17min 36sec.
Fellow New Zealander Anton Cooper, who was the defending champion, was given the same time and Hatherly was 20sec down.
Hatherly, the 2014 African Youth Games champion, went into the race on the back of a race-to-fitness, having broken his arm as recently as February.
“Wow, I’m so stoked with this,” said the normally reserved 22-year-old. “Obviously I was aiming for a medal but to get a medal at this level is huge, racing the best in the world. It’s a super hard course!
“I was racing with Anton and around halfway Sam had a bit of problem and lost probably 5sec but he was chasing hard and although I tried to go harder on the descents my arms were taking a bit of strain and when he came back past I didn’t get in the way, out of respect and also knowing that he had a big medal chance and I wasn’t right on Anton’s wheel at the time. Also, in the World Cup we’re team-mates at Specialized Racing so I didn’t want to be that guy who held him up.”
Like Redecker, Hatherly next heads to Egypt for next weekend’s African championships but first thanked the team who got him here.
“Obviously thanks to the family, my girlfriend, Jade Sanders, my mechanic JP Jacobs, Team Spur, Team SA and everyone who played a part in this medal," he concluded.
SA WOMEN IN TEARS
Meanwhile in the women’s cross-country event, South Africans Mariske Strauss and Cherie Redecker finished seventh and 11th respectively on the testing Naranga Forest Course.
Strauss ended 4min 48sec behind England’s gold medallist, Annie Last, the same rider who partnered her in the recent Cape Epic seven-day event.
Germany-based Redecker suffered a wheel puncture fairly early on and was never able to make up the lost ground and was +10:52 back.
This is a brutal, unforgiving sport, and both South Africans were reduced to tears afterward as the race stress drained from them.
“I had a terrible start so I think I pushed a bit hard and ended up going too deep and struggled. It was a tough day out but we’ll keep on fighting,” Strauss said.
Strauss raced the gruelling Cape Epic seven-day event which ended less than three weeks ago and says she may have felt it. “Yeah, the legs were a little bit fried as it’s been a long month’s racing. But still, well done to all the winners today.”
For Redecker there was both sadness and happiness. “I had a great start, was feeling amazing. I had good rhythm and was catching the girls but then on the second lap and quite far out, I got a puncture.
“I plugged it and bombed it but not hard enough and it was softening so team mechanic JP Jacobs changed my wheel very quickly. I tried to relax and catch but just couldn’t close that gap. But the support was amazing. I’ve rediscovered my love and joy for this sport now that I’m more settled in Germany.
"I have to thank the incredible support from my coach, family, friends, Team SA, SASCOC, Cycling SA and manager Erica Green -they’ve all been brilliant. Now it’s back to Germany and then back to Egypt for the African Championships next weekend.”