Team Spur’s Alan Hatherly lined up on Saturday afternoon in his first UCI U23 XCO World Cup of the season in Albstadt. The German course is widely regarded as the toughest race on the World Cup circuit with two major climbs and precipitous descents. In the dry, Albstadt is fast and brutal with steep gradients and rocky drops. However, in the wet, it becomes a battle to stay upright and maintain traction. This year drenching rain in the days leading up to the U23 showdown and intermittent showers on race day made for a treacherous test of skill on two wheels.
A dream start saw Alan lead the field in the opening lap, but a dropped chain forced him back to 15th and required a monumental fight to secure 10th position after five slippery laps.
Ahead of the race the African and South African Champion was buzzing to get back on a World Cup start line. A successful block of racing in April saw him claim bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and retain his African Championship title in Egypt. This would be the first chance in 2018 to prove himself against the world’s finest U23 racers.
Race week was dominated by talks of the weather forecast and discussions about tactics and equipment. Team Spur arrived to constant rain on Tuesday and saw the course deteriorate in front of their eyes.
“Starting in the third row we knew I would have to dig deep on the start loop,” Alan said after the race. “If you’re not up front going up the first switchback climb you’ll get caught in so much lap traffic.”
Alan made his way to the front of the bunch and set the pace, working to get the bunch down to a manageable size. With three other riders in tow, things were looking good for Alan. The rain then started and thunder was roaring above, turning an already slick course onto a mud bath.
With the build-up of mud and grass on the drive train, riders were battling to keep the bikes moving at pace. “I was leading the guys up the climb and as I looked down I saw my chain pop off my chainring,” Alan said. “I got [the chain] back on fairly quickly but then had the wrong teeth lined up on the chain so I had to stop and put it on again.”
The mechanical dropped Alan to around 15th place as the leaders continued their assault up front. The chase was now on to claw back positions. Alan put in a solid effort as he worked his way back to claim 10th in what he described as one of the “craziest races” of his career.
“Despite the unfortunate mechanical I am happy with the race, the numbers are good. I’m not as used to the mud as some of the Europeans,” said Alan.
Team Spur now travel to the Czech Republic for the third round of the UCI World Cup series in Nové Město na Moravě [Nove Mesto for short!]. Alan is looking forward to an opportunity to show what he’s really capable of in what is expected to be drier conditions.
Unfortunately, U23 racing is not broadcast live on RedBullTV, as with the Elite categories. However, Team Spur is trackside bringing you the race action this Saturday at 16:00 on twitter, so give them a follow: @Team_Spur.