WATCH: SA mountain biker Alan Hatherly hits back for top-10 spot at Tokyo Olympics
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CAPE TOWN: A “REALLY, really bad start” put paid to Alan Hatherly’s hopes of contending for a medal, but he fought back strongly to finish in a respectable eighth position in the mountain bike cycling event at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday.
The former Under-23 world champion was a definite contender to place in the top three before the race, which consisted of a 1.3km start loop and then seven laps of 3.85km each.
But a crash at Sakura Drop on the first lap led to Hatherly losing critical early time, and he had to play catch-up from that point onwards.
Great Britain’s Tom Pidcock was flying and took the sole lead by the fifth lap, and cruised to victory in a time of one hour 25 minutes and 14 seconds (1:25.14), with Switzerland’s Mathias Fluckiger taking the silver medal (1:25:34), with David Valero of Spain claiming the bronze (1:25:48).
Hatherly’s eighth place saw him finish in a time of 1:26:33, which was 1:19 behind Pidcock.
“Super hard. Really, really bad start. I got pushed a bit left, on to the grass, and I think I went from 10th to close to 30th. I ended up running the first two climbs in the start loop, and I came through in 32. And then it was just a big chase from thereon to the finish,” the 25-year-old from Durban said afterwards.
But a closer look at some of the statistics of the race proves that Hatherly had the speed to compete for a top-three spot.
His average speed was 19.584km/h, which was faster than all seven riders above him, and he was able to maintain the 1 minute 21 second (1:21) gap he conceded in the first 25.63km timing mark, trailing the 21-year-old Pidcock by 1:20 in the last 26.75km.
“I kind of had a good three-quarters of the race, and then David Valero caught me. I latched on to him, and I think I held on for too long at that point, and was a bit spent and blew a gasket a bit,” Hatherly said.
“I had to consolidate and just hold on to eighth. A bit disappointing that I came through the start-lap… I don’t know, 20, 30 seconds back, and I held that gap for the majority of the race.
“So, the pace was there – it was just an unfortunate start, and ja, these things happen. I gave it my all and I’ll take that. Big thanks to my mechanic and manager JP Jacobs – we had a super week together, bike was dialled, and couldn’t have asked for a better time, besides the bad luck.”