Alan Hatherly won the Under-23 cross country title at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in September. Photo: EPA/GIAN EHRENZELLER

JOHANNESBURG - Alan Hatherly is almost in full kamikaze mode as he navigates the world’s cross-country courses at breakneck speed. It is that ingrained fearlessness that earned the South African mountain biking ace a place in the history books.

Two weeks ago the Cape Town-based rider became only the second South African to win the Under-23 world title in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. His first pedal strokes were on the BMX before taking up downhill racing which would ultimately add to his skills as a cross-country mountain biker.

“To take the win is just unreal, it has been a childhood dream,” Hatherly said. “I’ve been working so long since my junior years when I first started doing World Cups and world champs and when I was introduced to international racing.”

He repeated Burry Stander’s feat from nine years ago with Hatherly following a similar trajectory to the late hero. Although Hatherly was too young to race against Stander, he had taken inspiration from the two-time Olympian.

“Especially in my youth days, I watched what Burry was doing internationally and that was a big inspiration for me to try and aim high. Unfortunately, I was too young to be able to have ridden with him and spoken a bit more about the international aspect.”

SA downhill racing legend Greg Minnaar provided the early inspiration to Hatherly, while his father introduced him to the sport from a young age. He has won multiple age-group downhill, cross-country and marathon mountain bike titles.

He made is Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio Games at the age of 20 and finished 26th. The 22-year-old made his international breakthrough last year when he won silver at the Under-23 world champs.

Hatherly continued his rise in 2018 despite breaking his left wrist and fracturing the right one at the three-day Tankwa Trek stage race in February. He went on to win Commonwealth Games bronze in Gold Coast, Australia, just months after the crash.

Shortly before the world champs, he claimed his best result in the UCI World Cup series last month when he won the Under-23 cross-country event in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada.

“It has been an up and down year with an injury in February and some health problems in June, July,” Hatherly said. “Having a front-row start really helped a lot and as far as racing goes, everything went perfectly.”

Hatherly will be looking to earn as many UCI points as possible before officially becoming an elite rider in 2019. The Olympic qualifying window opens in May next year when the South African will be looking to secure a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Games. He is also expected to make his Cape Epic debut in 2019 along with Danish training partner Simon Andreassen.

The Star

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter