Cape Town - Commonwealth Games bronze medallist mountain biker Alan Hatherly has racked up his first-ever UCI XCO World Cup title.
According to the Team SA website, the South African controlled an explosive Under-23 race to emerge tops in Mont Sainte-Anne, Canada on Sunday.
The result in Canada on "one of the hardest tracks on the (World Cup) circuit", according to Hatherly, is the South African's most memorable result.
The 22-year-old Cape Town-based rider broke both his wrists in February in a mountain bike stage but bounced back in April to claim a bronze medal on the Gold Coast in Australia. He then went on to defend his African Continental and South African Championship titles recently.
Hatherly and his Team Spur support staff, mechanic JP Jacobs and team manager, Tim Bassingthwaighte, made their way from a cold and wet Cape Town, South Africa to the ski resort of Mont Sainte-Anne, outside Quebec City, Canada last week.
The race got underway on a sweltering Quebec summer's day, he lined up in the front row for the all-important explosive start.
Staying in touch with the front group was vital as the technical course meant bottlenecks at the more challenging obstacles, or when other riders fall.
"I aimed to be in around fourth or fifth position in the start loop, this allowed me to be aware of any attacks which may have come off the front," Hatherly reflected, as quoted by Team SA.
"The bottom of the climbs here are all wide open and then it goes into singletrack at the top, so I knew I didn't need to be upfront early on. There was an opportunity to move up on the big climbs."
Sitting at fifth wheel in the lead bunch, Hatherly put in an attack up a grass climb midway through the first lap and started dictating the pace.
"I rode a pretty hard pace to try and split the group and test the riders with me. On the second lap Joshua Dubau (France) attacked up the climb and I went with him and we distanced ourselves from the group," he said. "Chris Blevins (USA) was the only one who could come with us."
"Unfortunately, Josh crashed on the descent soon after attacking me, so it was just Chris who was able to stay with me."
The pair of Specialized riders then worked together to extend their lead over their chasers.
"We kept it wide open to get the gap as early on in the race as possible, so we could play tactics towards the end of it. Having the buffer puts you in a good position to play the tactical game. Whereas if (the chasers) are hot on your heels you don't have time to work out the strategies. Chris and I pulled together, rotated and kept it steady through to the last lap," said Hatherly.
After four laps out in front, the pair knew it would come down to the decisive final lap.
"I knew I had to make a move on the climbs. As we hit the second major climb of the lap I put my head down and went for it," described Alan.
Dropping out of the trees towards the line, Hatherly had wrestled the gap out to around 30 seconds. A few grass bends and high fives later and Alan crossed the line to claim his first U23 UCI XCO World Cup victory!
"It's unbelievable to finally get the win. We've been working for this now for longer than two years obviously, but I feel like it's been possible for the last two years and to finally have pulled it off is massive. With all the ups and downs of this year: broken bones, anemia mid-season... it's not ideal!
"To bounce back towards the end of the season is incredible. It's four weeks now till World Champs and two weeks to La Bresse. Some exciting racing is still ahead so it's time for some big training to prepare for the final two-three races of the year. I'm happy there's some racing left to chase another top step," Hatherly said.
"I'm so stoked that all the effort has paid off. The last few weeks have been so hard but to walk away with the win makes it all worth it. I just want to say thanks to everyone back home for all the support, it makes the victory that much sweeter."
Hatherly now spends a few weeks in Europe before the final round of the UCI World Cup in La Bresse, France and the XCO World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland in September.
Read full story on Team SA website