Monday, 21 July 2014

SA XCO Champs 2014 - Alan Hatherley

This was one my goal events for the year and after getting a notification from Cycling SA the week before that I had been selected for the 2014 SA World Champs Team this gave me extra motivation to aim for renewing my SA Junior Champions jersey.

We left on the Thursday morning, bright and early to head to Johannesburg the province that got to host this year’s SA XCO Champs, and after what felt like a 24 hour drive we arrived at Thaba Trails. The venue looked awesome with people already on the course it made me itch to get on the bike and go check it out especially after all the hype on TV as well as over social media about the technical sections. I suited up and got my things together and hit the course. After doing only about 1km of the track I reached the first technical section which had a crowd of riders trying to interpret the rock section to find the best line. I had a look myself and managed to find a quick but safe line, then moved on. I soon realised there wasn’t much of a break on this track, with the hills being just off vertical and covered in rocks followed by technical downhills also covered in rocks. There were about 4 extreme technical sections which suited me, but on the day I didn't feel good on the course at all. It was a 4km rock garden and I found that holding momentum was very difficult, so I did 3 laps and called it a day.

On the Friday, we arrived at the track fairly early at Thaba as an ASG crew and set out the Epic Sports gazebos. We then all kitted up and hit the course to do our final inspections before the next day’s race. The first lap went well, which was then followed by a hot lap with Arno which opened my eyes as to how fast it was possible to get around the course. We did a 15:30 just off race pace, which gave me a good idea of what to expect for the next day’s race. With the feed zone set up looking awesome, we tied it down to stop everything from blowing away then we all headed on home. Later on that day I took my bike to Epic Sports, so that they could do a final run through and race prep my bike!

It was race day and with my start being only later on in the day at 2, it meant I had a long wait which in a way I was grateful for because of the cold temperature during the morning. 1 o’clock eventually came and we headed to the track, and with arriving later it allowed me to start my warm up straight away and get my concentration sorted for the race. Juniors were due to do 4 laps, which meant it was going to be flat out and with the start straight being short it meant I had to get into the single track first as passing was going to be difficult.

After my warm up I felt ready to race so I headed to the start chute for line up and watched the Elites and U23’s pull away. There was only a 2 minute gap between us and the u23’s making a quick line up and we were off. I managed to get a good start and got myself to the front of the field and lead them out over the first few km’s of the course. My aim for the race was to ride clever and not push the limits unless I had to as I couldn’t afford an injury so close to World’s. After about 2km I had managed to ride everyone off my wheel and from there I settled into a comfortable pace. The course had broken up badly, with powder everywhere and more rocks making the course even tougher! I managed to get about a 30 second gap after the first lap which wasn’t much and the group was chasing hard. My second lap I made a few mistakes in the technical sections loosing a lot of my gap allowing the field to get to 15 seconds behind me. On my last two laps I put the hammer down a little and got two solid laps in and extended my gap to make sure that my victory was safe. I ended up winning by 1minute 20seconds! It was a super tough race allowing for few mistakes and I was glad to have come out with the win, giving me the SA XCO title for both of my Junior years.

Thanks to Paul Cordes and the ASG crew for working in the tech and feeding zone as well as to my parents for taking me to the event and last but not least thank you to everyone out on the course for the support

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