Ariane Lüthi, although a Swiss national, is without doubt one of the top racers on the circuit s. Photo: Robert Ward
Two of South Africa’s top mountain biking teams will cease to exist at the end of this year in a major blow for women’s cycling in South Africa.

This week a press release went out announcing the end of Team Spur. Teams come and go and rebrand themselves regularly but the end of this particular team is a major blow on more than one level.

Somewhat ironically the team ends its existence with a World Champion on its books, but U23 rainbow jersey holder Alan Hatherly heads into the senior ranks he will be racing in new, still to be announced, team colours.

Ariane Lüthi, although a Swiss national, is without doubt one of the top racers on the circuit and the demise of her team comes in the slipstream of the news that multiple SA Champion Robyn de Groot is having surgery early in 2019 to correct a blood flow problem in her leg, and longtime sponsor, Ascendis Health has opted not to continue its sponsorship.

The Spur press release hints that Lüthi has a new sponsor lined up and it will be interesting to see the details, particularly as she prepares for another assault on the Cape Epic.

2018 was arguably Team Spur’s most successful year, yet the confidence to compete at the top level of the sport was built from the very beginning and Lüthi’s 2016 Epic victory alongside Annika Langvad for Team Spur-Specialized, paved the way for subsequent triumphs. James Reid’s selection for the Rio Olympics was another key building block on the pathway to success.

Reid’s decision to leave the team to pursue his studies at the end of 2016 left the team reeling. But they acquired the services of Reid’s Olympic teammate, Hatherly, in January 2017.

In January this year Lüthi won the grueling Attakwas Extreme while Hatherly had a strong showing at the SA XCO Cup, finishing fifth behind a strong international field.

The three-day Tankwa Trek was a reality check that saw Lüthi withdraw mid-race, while Hatherly was rushed to hospital with two broken wrists. Hatherly collected World Cup podiums third in Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic and then winning the Canadian round  and won every local XCO race and retained his South African XCO Championship title in July.

In 2017, Hatherly finished second at the U23 World Champs, but 12 months later he put on a tactical masterclass to ride away from the competition on the final lap.

Lüthi finished an impressive sixth at the Marathon World Championships in Italy and then reclaimed her Swiss Marathon Championship title.

Back home Lüthi and Hatherly signed off from Team Spur by winning their final stages at the Wines2Whales with their respective partners.

Independent on Saturday