Johannesburg - Olympian Alan Hatherly currently leads the pack of bikers on the 2017 Cross-Country Olympic series rankings in the elite men category with 325 points.
The mountain bike racer will be one of the riders at the third leg of Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) category 1’s 2017 South African MTB Cup Series.
The competition, which is part of the UCI Junior World Series that consists of 27 races across the globe this season, takes place at Happy Valley Conservancy in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Hatherly won the second leg of the event held in Wolwespruit Bike Park in Pretoria last month, defeating rivals including Under-23 South African cross-country national champion Julian Jessop and team Ascendis Health’s Gert Heyns.
He accumulated 30 points ahead of second-placed Philip Buys, who gathered 170 points.
The Olympian says he is training hard in preparation for the event.
“I won the race in Pretoria but I am still training hard for the Bloemfontein one,” he said.
He is keen on doing well again on Saturday.
“If I am positioned well, I am hoping to finish first again. It also depends on who will be my main competitors.”
Like the others in the series, the third leg's main significance is the UCI Category 1 rating, which allows top contenders in the elite and junior categories to earn valuable UCI points.
This ultimately improves their rider ranking, which is beneficial when competing in World Cups or World Championship events.
This year’s course will be 5km long with a 170m vertical ascent.
It features a hand-built single track with plenty of overtaking opportunities, two challenging climbs of 660m (with a 50m ascent) and 350m (with a 40m ascent), natural rock gardens, pump (flow) track, gap jumps, drop-offs and two technical downhills.
Happy Valley Conservancy is in the heart of Bloemfontein and is only 13km from Bram Fischer International Airport.
The fourth leg of the series will be held at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, on June 17.
It will be followed by the 2017 South African MTB National Championships, which will be held at Mankele Bike Park in Mpumalanga from July 22 to 23.
. Online entries for Saturday’s event are open until Tuesday, and riders can enter at cyclingsa-events.co.za