Hillcrest High’s Alan Hatherly to take on the big boys at Howick

2013-05-31 00:00

HOWICK — The battle at the front of the men’s race in Sunday’s Sappi Howick MTB Classic could well unravel into a traditional “old versus young” affair as the likes of Hillcrest High School pupil Alan Hatherly go stroke for stroke with former Springbok and Sharks rugby player Jeremy Thomson for the overall spoils.

With youth and enthusiasm on his side, Hatherly (BMC-SA) may well enter the encounter as marginal pre-race favourite. However, few would write off the hardy annual that Thompson (Thule) has become after years of consistent top local performances many younger athletes can only envy.

“I’ve done the Sappi Howick MTB Classic two or three times before and I’m really looking forward to riding it again this weekend,” said Hatherly.

“The race will probably be the last 40 km race I do before I head overseas for the Italian World Cup, so it would be great to try do really nicely and finish up here with a good result,” he added.

It has, however, been a tough period for Hatherly. Unbeknown to the young star, he recently contracted bilharzia, which saw his performances deteriorate rapidly despite working harder than ever.

“I got bilharzia, which kept me off the bike for two weeks, but affected my racing for about four months prior to that and has really set me back this season,” explained the young BMC-SA athlete.

“I couldn’t understand why every time I got to a certain stage in a race I just had nothing left and couldn’t push any more. It was very frustrating and has been a frustrating time in general.”

Having missed the first two World Cups in Germany and Czech Republic due to clashes with school time­tables and various other factors, Hatherly has set his sights firmly on the rapidly looming Italian affair, and a solid build-up locally will do the youngster’s confidence a world of good.

“Since coming back from the time off the bike, I’ve been focusing on the cross-country side of things, mainly because the Italian World Cup in two weeks’ time will be an important chance to try earn UCI points and that’s definitely my focus at the moment,” said Hatherly.

Despite having competed in the event less than a handful of times, Hatherly feels his vast mountain biking experience relative to his age should put him in good stead for Sunday’s event.

The young young BMC-SA rider is looking forward to tackling the race’s route, a large stretch of which sees riders enjoy the vast network of trails within forests and conservation areas. It will be somewhat of a return to an area he once knew well while competing as a downhill competitor.

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