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  1. Reid started the 100th stage of the world’s most prestigious mountain-bike stage race in the Outcast special jersey for UCI riders, after teammate Gert Heyns was forced to withdraw on Monday’s Stage 1, due to illness. Reid has had an unfortunate run of luck at this year's Cape Epic. Two weeks before the race his original partner, US National XCO Champ, Howard Grotts broke his ribs in training and was forced to withdraw. The eleventh-hour team of Reid and Heyns were quietly optimistic that they could shake things up, especially in the fierce competition for the Absa African Special Jersey. The young cross-country specialists had started the week off well with a powerful performance at the Prologue at Meerendal on Sunday, where they finished fourth overall to claim the red African jersey. “On Tuesday's Stage 2 I started in C-batch and went hard from the start to try and get a good day’s racing done,” Reid commented afterward. “However, you don’t get the stimulus when you aren't with the front guys and what actually struck me was how much longer five hours felt today over yesterday. I think it's because I didn’t have the ‘racing’ stimulus – the chatting, reading other riders' body language, responding to attacks or carving singletrack together.’ Reid explained that riding back in the pack felt as though he was, “playing pac-man against himself.” “Yeah, you can sort of get into it, but after a while there are only one or two Outcasts out there and it gets kind of lonely – sure, you are riding your bike in a beautiful setting, but because you’re not racing, you’re not as emotionally invested in the day as everyone else… The sense of accomplishment is not nearly as big,” he said. Reid is philosophical about the situation, “this is bike racing and bike racing can be brutal, you do what you can with the cards that you’re dealt,” he said. Reid made the decision to withdraw from the race to start building toward 2016 African Continental Mountain Bike Championships on 2 April, at Afriski in Lesotho, where he hopes to gather valuable points toward Olympic qualification. With no UCI points on offer to Outcast riders at the Cape Epic, James needs to rejoin the hunt for selection. “I understand what a privilege it is to ride in the Cape Epic and I want to thank the organisers as well as my sponsors Spur and Specialized for all their support. But there are important races in the next two weeks that are crucial for Rio selection. So I will shift my attention to racing in circles really quickly for an-hour-and-a-half, as opposed to out in the mountains for five hours,” the reigning South African XCO Champion joked. Reid is adamant he'll return to the Absa Cape Epic to take care of unfinished business. “This event is incredible,” he said. “It really is all that it is made out to be – the pace at the front is brutal and just judging by the [low] number of riders at the sharp end who speak English as a first language, it really is a multi-lingual, international, professional bike race.” “Lessons learned. A lot of lessons learned. There could be more [if he stayed in the race], but I feel the gains would be marginal,” he said. “I’m disappointed to leave, but I feel like I have enough knowledge loaded in my mind to take on this race properly, with a fighting chance, in a year’s time.” “You really have to have a good strategy and a lot of experience; and you have to have the right partner and the best support – which I have had this year – to make a go of it, I’m excited for next year already,” Reid concluded.
  2. At 2pm tomorrow (Saturday, 30 April) the bell rings for the start of the penultimate round of what has been a year-long brawl for Olympic selection. Appropriately, the fight takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg, a world-class venue famous for hosting the 2013 UCI MTB World Championships and a number of UCI World Cups. Although the Pietermaritzburg MTB Festival taking place this weekend is a Cycling South Africa sanctioned event, it is not part of the Stihl SA XCO Cup Series. However, it is a UCI HC (Hors Categorie) event, carrying plenty of valuable UCI points. More importantly, it is one of the last chances South African mountain bikers get to impress our Olympic selectors. Essentially it's do-or-die for any Olympic hopefuls. The team will be chosen after Round 4 of the SA XCO Cup in Port Elizabeth on 14 May. In the heavyweight category (UCI Pro Elite Men) James Reid is locked in a tight three-way tussle for (what will hopefully be) two spots to Rio. It's a long and complex algorithm that has James, veteran Phil Buys and youngster Alan Hatherly pitted against each other. All you need to know is it boils down to tomorrow's XCO event in Pietermaritzburg with one last-ditch chance in PE in mid-May. With so much to race for the tension is already palpable and race day will feature no-holds-barred action of the highest quality over the punchy 5.4km route. The technical course will suit James's explosive riding style and although he now trains in Stellenbosch, he can claim a hometown advantage as he was raised on the loamy Pietermaritzburg trails. James holds a strong position in the eyes of selectors, with his 2015 Elite South African XCO title and two wins from three rounds at the 2016 SA XCO Cup Series. Unfortunately, he relinquished his 2015 Elite African Continental Championship title to rival Phil Buys in Lesotho in early April, falling victim to a late crash and the negative effects of racing at altitude (the African Continental Championships was hosted at a staggering 3000m). So, if you want a ringside seat for all the action tomorrow, head to www.streamit360.tv at 2pm.
  3. From Left to Right: Nic Lamond, Ariane Lüthi, Alan Hatherly, JP Jacobs, Sacha du Plessis (Group Marketing Executive, Spur Group), Khakhi Diala (Sponsorship and Events Manager, Spur Group), Tim Bassingthwaighte What a ride! Team Spur has been nothing short of an amazing rollercoaster since late 2015. When Spur's marketing man, Sacha du Plessis and I first sat together in the Spur offices and developed the basic idea of supporting the wildly successful Spur Schools Mountain Bike League with a professional cycling team, we had no idea of the profound journey we would be embarking on. But from that moment on, as a team, we proudly went into battle knowing the Spur family had our back. Spur's decision to trust its brand to our care on mountain bike courses at home and across the globe was a risky one, driven by Sacha's passion for the sport, but also his commitment to community upliftment and the family values Spur has built its reputation on. It was a decision that I believe paid off in so many ways, not only in the impressive list of race podiums and victories we soon notched up, but in the profound impact we had on thousands of school children in South Africa through the Spur Schools League. While I am saddened by the closing of the unforgettable Team Spur chapter, I take great pride in the spirit and success of the team, both on the racing circuit and off it. We have built strong and lasting relationships with all our sponsors over the past three years, and we will continue to cherish these connections. I have no doubt that all members of our close-knit team will go on to achieve even greater things in the industry and in their professional careers. In the beginning all I had was the commitment from Spur, and the ambition of three talented and passionate people: athletes James Reid and Ariane Lüthi, and mechanical wizard JP Jacobs. We were soon joined by soigneur Brent Botha and we set to work building a supportive team of professionals focused on the team's motto: "world class in all we do". 2018 is arguably Team Spur's most successful year, yet the confidence to go out there and compete at the top level of the sport was built from the very beginning and Ariane Lüthi's 2016 Absa Cape Epic victory alongside Annika Langvad for Team Spur-Specialized, paved the way for subsequent triumphs. James Reid's and JP Jacob's selection to represent Team South Africa at the Rio Olympic Games in August 2016 was another key building block on the pathway to success. Team Spur-Specialized's Ariane Lüthi (right) and Annika Langvad stand atop the final podium of the 2016 Absa Cape Epic. Image: Nick Muzik It is never plain sailing, and team manager and soigneur Brent Botha left for a great opportunity at the Israel Cycling Academy in late 2016. The talented James Reid left us shortly afterwards to pursue his studies... and we were suddenly reeling. But these things happen for a reason and we were lucky to find the unflappable Tim Bassingthwaighte and employ him as our new team manager. We then acquired the services of Reid's fellow Olympic teammate, a young talent called Alan Hatherly, who joined us from January 2017. 2017 was another significant learning curve as Ariane struggled to realise her potential on the international marathon circuit, grappling with depression as she bravely faced the world's finest female mountain bikers week in and week out. Meanwhile, Alan, JP and Tim claimed African and South African XCO titles while quietly building their race craft on the UCI U23 Word Cup circuit. A second place at the exhilarating Andorran round of the World Cup for Alan gave us all a glimpse of the prize we were fighting for, while another second, but this time at the UCI U23 World Championship in Australia was the real sign we were on track! Hatherly teamed up with his training buddy Matt Beers for South Africa's seven-day Cape Pioneer Trek stage race and took a hard-fought victory during the grueling race. But the most satisfying result of 2017 was Ariane's victory at the same race, where she partnered Amy Beth McDougall. It marked a return to form for our Swiss powerhouse and the start of a mental comeback process that would bear fruit in 2018. 2018 was a long and hard season of racing. And Team Spur dealt with myriad setbacks and challenges, only to rise against adversity every time. The calendar kicked off in January with Ariane's victory at the grueling Attakwas Extreme. Alan was up next and continued his trajectory with a strong showing at the SA XCO Cup, finishing fifth behind a strong international field that included multiple World Champion and Olympic gold medalist Nino Schurter. The three-day Tankwa Trek was a reality check of the brutal nature of high-performance sport. Ariane's 2018 Absa Cape Epic partner suffered a blood infection and had to withdraw mid-race, while Alan was rushed to hospital during the final stage with two broken wrists. The pressure was now on. Firstly, to find a high-calibre replacement partner for Ariane for the Absa Cape Epic. And secondly, to get Alan race-ready to fly the South African flag at the Commonwealth Games in April. Despite a strong start to the Cape Epic for Team Spur, consistently taking the race to the eventual Women's Category winners, Ariane's partner was forced to withdraw after Stage 4 due to illness, while the pair were in second place overall. After a well-managed recovery program, Alan returned from potentially season-ending wrist injuries to win the second round of the SA XCO Cup series en-route to the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Alan then ploughed the depths of his mental toughness and exceptional bike skills to record a phenomenal race under the circumstances, earning a bronze medal for his country at the Commonwealth Games in April. Ariane added to the team's tally of bronze medals at the European Marathon Championships in April, where she claimed her best result at the continental competition. In May the European race calendar hit us like a ton of bricks: Alan's World Cup season was at full throttle, while Ariane racked up multiple marathon event wins throughout Europe, including the Belgian Mountain Bike Challenge, as well as her hometown marathon, the Raid Evolenard. In between World Cup races – where he came third in Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic and then won the Canadian round in Mont Sainte Anne – Alan won every local XCO race and retained his South African XCO Championship title in July. Team Spur's Alan Hatherly claims victory at the Canadian round of the UCI U23 XCO World Cup. Image: Michal Červený After a solid block of training, Alan went into his major event of the year as the hot favourite. The UCI U23 XCO World Championships jersey had eluded Alan by a mere 10 seconds in 2017, when he finished second to Kiwi Sam Gaze. He wasn't prepared to settle for silver this time around and put on a tactical and technical masterclass, which saw him ride away from the competition on the final lap and earn the coveted U23 rainbow stripes. Alan and Team Spur brought the jersey back to South Africa for the first time in nine years. Spur recently released a stunning TV ad capturing the story of Alan's journey through the ranks of the Spur League and his stunning comeback story to be crowned U23 World Champion. If you haven't seen it yet, we've got the long version for you below. The Marathon World Championships course in Italy a week after the XCO event was a brutal affair, with over 3,400m of climbing in 89km for the ladies. Ariane finished an impressive sixth, while Alan had to settle for 55th in the even longer men's race, his legs feeling the effects of his sterling XCO effort. Ariane backed up this result a few weeks later at the Swiss Marathon Championships, where she reclaimed her title after a ding-dong battle with multiple World and Swiss Champion Esther Süss. Team Spur returned home to South Africa for the final few stage races on the 2018 calendar. Alan teamed up with young Danish powerhouse and close friend Simon Andreassen for the Cape Pioneer Trek and Wines2Whales in October and November. The two youngsters claimed solid second places at both events. Ariane took on the Wines2Whales with Hungarian rider Barbara Benkó and after an unfortunate one-hour time penalty on Stage 1, the pair finished in fifth place after the three days of racing. Team Spur's Ariane Lüthi and Barbara Benkó claiming victory at the final stage of the 2018 Wines2Whales in Grabouw, South Africa. Image Credit: Greg Beadle The Wines2Whales turned out to be a fitting end to the season and to Team Spur's three-year run of form. Both of our riders finished their final stage in Team Spur colours by winning their categories with their respective partners! I asked the members of Team Spur what their personal highlights over the past three years have been: Ariane Lüthi: "While I could start and conclude my time riding for Team Spur with two career highlights – winning the Cape Epic in early 2016 and reclaiming the Swiss Champion's jersey this year – watching my teammate Alan, with the aid of Tim and JP, grabbing the rainbow stripes end of this year was unreal. I went through a pretty tough time in between. However it was during those two years struggling with depression, that I appreciated the great support of my team, and especially our manager, Nic, the most." Alan Hatherly: "My highlights from Team Spur would be racing two full World Cup seasons and achieving my first World Cup win and World Championship title through the world-class support system the team structure offered. Another highlight would be that I was presented with the opportunity to be involved in assisting the grass roots of cycling in South Africa, through the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League. It really has opened my eyes to the up-and-coming talent our country has." JP Jacobs: "I would say it's been the entire past three years – from winning my first Absa Cape Epic in 2016 to celebrating my biggest career win with a set of rainbow strips at the end of this season. Learning was constantly evolving: understanding the athletes' needs and supplying them with a winning race bike every time. As well as the culture experiences in different nations and realising just how big our world is. Being able to travel the globe and fixing bikes out of a suit case. It's been the best three years so far. Thank you, Nic and Team Spur." Tim Bassingthwaighte: "The last two years with Team Spur has been a huge learning curve and exceptional experience. Seeing first hand the highs and lows of the riders, and what they go through to be able to perform is incredibly motivating for what we do behind the scenes. To see Ariane and Alan bounce back from their respective setbacks to add the Swiss XCM Champs title and a set of rainbow stripes to a humble South African team has been a privilege. Thanks to Nic, Ariane, Alan and JP!" So what's next? Well, we'll leave that to the riders and staff and their new factory teams to announce. Safe to say, you'll get plenty of opportunity to see both Ariane Lüthi and Alan Hatherly racing in their beloved South Africa in 2019. While Team Spur's structure as a fully-fledged professional race team dissolves, the athletes will continue to work with Spur as proud ambassadors to the Spur Schools Mountain Bike League, which will be supported by this amazing organisation for another 10 years! Team Spur's main mission was always to provide inspiration and motivation to the thousands of scholars participating in the Spur Schools League. We believe the League has had a huge impact on the sport in the country, not only at the high-performance level through Team Spur, but in bringing families and communities together, encouraging camaraderie and good-natured rivalry between schools and provinces, and getting children active and into the outdoors in a supportive and healthy way. That is an incredibly positive legacy to leave behind for the future. On a personal level, I feel immensely privileged to have been a part of a professional team that truly cared about one another. The passion and integrity of the team's full-time staff, JP Jacobs and Tim Bassingthwaighte can never be overstated. Their dedication to the team is reflected in the way we supported its riders James Reid, Ariane Lüthi and Alan Hatherly through some profoundly challenging times in their professional careers. Lastly, none of this would have been possible without your support. The engagement on all levels – from our social media pages to the handshakes and backslaps in the pits, to the shouts trackside at race courses around the country and the world. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It may not feel like much, but every connection, whether it was a keystroke, a selfie or a raised voice in the din, was felt by us and pushed us towards our goals. It has been an honour to pursue Team Spur's lofty dreams over the years with you all. Team Spur's Alan Hatherly putting his silky skills to the test at the 2018 Wines2Whales. Image credit: Nick Muzik
  4. Image Credit Michal Cerveny Hatherly claimed the silver medal at last year's World Championships in Cairns, Australia, and was hungry to go one better. "The Swiss course really suits me as you don't get any free speed out there," Alan said of the physically demanding 4km loop through the rooty Seewald forest. "You have to work for everything and it's about carrying speed and being smart about burning matches." Cross-country starts are critical, and in the U23 category the starter's gun signals a frenzied scrum of riders at high speed wanting to assert themselves. The bottlenecks that present themselves early in the Lenzerheide course made the Championship start even more critical. Hatherly used his front row start to manoeuvre himself into second wheel entering the first single track. "If you're any further back than about sixth wheel you'll get caught up in the bottle necking," said Hatherly. Highlights The U23 pre-race favourites and big hitters were all together through the first two laps as they jostled for position. A strong nine-man pack emerged. "The second lap was mayhem as riders took pretty big chances and were not shy to let you know where they wanted to be in the bunch," reflected Hatherly. Having tested his rivals occasionally in the lead and seen who was up to scratch, Hatherly casually moved to the front on Lap 3 and started mixing things up. "I shifted to the front and put some pressure on the climb, but also maintained that pressure through the technical descent and rolling climbs. I think this is where the gap formed as it was soon Chris Blevins [uSA] and I off the front with a few riders behind working to rejoin," said Hatherly. The two Specialized riders worked together as they had done a few weeks ago, when they found themselves in the same situation at the Canadian round of the UCI World Cup series. "We have such a similar ride style, it's awesome to sit at the front and keep the constant pressure on!" Hatherly admitted. The small gaps behind the two leaders soon stretched out substantially, with only Dutch rider David Norderman lurking ominously 20-30 seconds back. Image Credit Michal Cerveny Lap 5 offered a glimpse of how deep Blevins was in the hurt box and Hatherly quickly made plans to exploit the weakness with a monster effort late in the race. "I sat up on Lap 5 to get Chris to come to the front. When he just held my wheel I knew he was in some pain," said Hatherly. Hatherly didn't want the race coming down to a two-up sprint against his American rival, as Blevins' road race pedigree is widely known and he may have had the upper hand with only 100m of tar to cover to the line. Into the final lap Hatherly knew it was now or never, and he buried himself to snap the elastic band connecting him and Blevins for the previous three laps. Hitting the course's first technical sections at pace, Hatherly was able to put six seconds into Blevins. But that wasn't enough and Hatherly went again, forcing the gap out even further as the finish line and its throng of cheering fans grew louder. Hatherly kept pushing and crossed the line comfortable, a full 27 seconds clear of Blevins in second. Claiming the U23 World Championships title and the coveted rainbow jersey is a dream come true for Hatherly: "This is bucket list stuff and something I have dreamed of for years. For it all to come together so well... I am blown away that I actually achieved this win," an elated Hatherly said after the lung-busting effort. "It is kind of a bitter sweet moment however, as I move to the Elite category next year and won't get to rock this [u23] jersey. But to be able to call yourself World Champion is an amazing feeling and I am looking forward to stepping into the big leagues next year," Hatherly said. Alan now shifts focus to UCI Marathon World Champs next weekend, where he will join Team Spur teammate, Swiss marathon specialist Ariane Lüthi, in the Italian Dolomites for the last race in Europe for the year. Summary of Results – 2018 UCI MTB World ChampionshipsMen U23 XCO 1.Alan Hatherly (RSA) 01:21:22 2.Christopher Blevins (USA) +0:27 3.David Nordemann (NED) +1:05 4.Petter Fagerhaug (NOR) +1:24 5.Jonas Lindberg (DEN) +1:28
  5. Last year Hatherly raced to second at the UCI XCO World Championships in Cairns, Australia in a thrilling battle with New Zealander Sam Gaze that went all the way to the line. Gaze moved into the Elite age group in 2018 while Hatherly gets a final shot at the U23 rainbow jersey. He carries plenty of confidence into Friday's race, having finished fifth overall in this year's U23 World Cup series and claiming a victory in Round 6 at Mont Sainte-Anne in Canada. Image credit: Michal Cerveny But the South African is no shoo-in for victory at the high altitude race venue in Lenzerheide. The U23 category is fiercely competitive. Norwegian powerhouse Petter Fagerhaug, Swiss whiz Filippo Colombo and Frenchman Joshua Dubau represent the biggest challengers to Hatherly's dominance. But the U23 ranks run deep with talent and skill and attacks will come from any number of the highly-motivated youngsters. Hatherly's training partner, Danish superstar Simon Andreassen, as well as rising star Christopher Blevins from the US will be fighting fit and won't back down. The U23 men race at 16:30 local time (the same in South Africa) on Friday afternoon, and there will be live streaming on the UCI Youtube channel. Team Spur will also be covering the race from its twitter page. The live video streaming is a welcome development, and an opportunity for fans to see the ferocious pace and silky skills of the world's most talented young mountain bikers. Team Spur fans have been reduced to following Hatherly's exploits across the globe in 2018 via the team's live twitter feed updates, as U23 World Cup races aren't broadcast live. Hatherly starts the race on the front row with the number two board, as the highest ranked U23 rider. "The start at Lenzerheide is crucial, you have only a hundred metres or so on the straight before we turn left onto an open tar road climb," Hatherly says. "Once you're on the tar climb it's near impossible to pass riders, and diving straight into a tricky singletrack section afterwards makes tactics even more important." Rain is forecast for race week and in course practice riders are already battling to stay upright on sections of the slippery track. Hatherly has raced a few wet World Cup events this year with mixed results, but a solid understanding of how to approach a race when the weather turns against him. "It's all about being stable on the bike and controlling the slides which will inevitably come," Hatherly says. Hatherly spent the past week in Livigno, Italy, preparing for high-altitude racing on the big stage on Friday. "The altitude will also play a factor and I need to be smart about keeping my efforts constant, any overreaching and you'll pay the price."
  6. Image Courtesy of Michal Cerveny The result in Canada, on "one of the hardest tracks on the [World Cup] circuit", according to Hatherly, is the South African's most memorable result in a roller coaster season of racing. The 22-year-old broke both his wrists in February in a mountain bike stage but bounced back in April to claim a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. He then defended his African Continental and South African Championship titles recently. For those in the know, UCI World Cup racing remains the pinnacle of the sport, and Hatherly was eager to deliver on his potential on the biggest stage. Passion, skill, dedication to training and pure grit have brought him a second (in 2017) and a third-place result this year in U23 World Cups. But the top step of the podium had eluded him... until Sunday! Hatherly and his Team Spur support staff, mechanic JP Jacobs and team manager, Tim Bassingthwaighte, made their way from a cold and wet Cape Town, South Africa to the ski resort of Mont Sainte-Anne, outside Quebec City, Canada last week. The trio immediately set about negating the jetlag from the 6-hour time difference and negative effects of the long-haul flight. A special training plan was hatched with a shift in the usual race preparation. Hatherly took a look at the course on Wednesday and knew he'd have his hands full on race day, trying to contain the best young riders on a physically demanding track. The Mont Sainte-Anne race course had cut out one major climb from previous years, but would still be a dogfight for all of its six laps. "The course here is one of the most natural of the year," Hatherly said. "There's nothing man-made on it and the climbing is really tough, which makes it one of the hardest tracks on the circuit." Technical rock gardens littered the course and were made treacherous with wet roots and muddy sections in between. Alan was up for the challenge: "I worked hard to dial in my lines for the race. With two long-haul international flights to get here, I needed to ensure I was race ready as soon as possible," Hatherly said. The race got underway on a sweltering Quebec summer's day. Alan lined up in the front row for the all-important explosive start. It was the usual frenetic cloud of dust when the starter's gun was fired, with riders jostling for positions on the shorter start loop. Staying in touch with the front group was vital as the technical course means bottlenecks at the more challenging obstacles, or when other riders fall. "I aimed to be in around fourth or fifth position in the start loop, this allowed me to be aware of any attacks which may have come off the front," Hatherly reflected. "The bottom of the climbs here are all wide open and then it goes into singletrack at the top, so I knew I didn't need to be up front early on. There was an opportunity to move up on the big climbs." Image Courtesy of Michal Cerveny Sitting fifth wheel in the lead bunch, Alan put in an attack up a grass climb midway through the first lap and started dictating the pace. "I rode a pretty hard pace to try and split the group and test the riders with me. On the second lap Joshua Dubau [France] attacked up the climb and I went with him and we distanced ourselves from the group," Hatherly said. "Chris Blevins [uSA] was the only one who could come with us." "Unfortunately Josh crashed on the descent soon after attacking me, so it was just Chris who was able to stay with me." The pair of Specialized riders then worked together to extend their lead over their chasers. "We kept it wide open to get the gap as early on in the race as possible, so we could play tactics towards the end of it. Having the buffer puts you in a good position to play the tactical game. Whereas if [the chasers] are hot on your heels you don't have time to work out the strategies. Chris and I pulled together, rotated and kept it steady through to the last lap," said Hatherly. Aware of Blevins' technical prowess, Hatherly watched him like a hawk. After four laps out in front, the pair knew it would come down to the decisive final lap. "I knew I had to make a move on the climbs. As we hit the second major climb of the lap I put my head down and went for it." described Alan. Pushing right to the edge of his limits, Hatherly took a steeper inside line while Blevins opted for the safer, wider line. The effort required to summit the small rise paid off as Hatherly gained a good few meters of Blevins. "I managed to get about a 10m gap or so on Chris and I knew I had to keep the pace up and just push through to the line. I think he made a mistake at the top in the rock garden and that gave me a bit of extra time," he said. Dropping out of the trees towards the line, Hatherly had wrestled the gap out to around 30 seconds. A few grass bends and high fives later and Alan crossed the line to claim his first U23 UCI XCO World Cup victory! "It's unbelievable to finally get the win. We've been working for this now for longer than two years obviously, but I feel likes it's been possible for the last two years and to finally have pulled it off is massive. With all the ups and downs of this year: broken bones, anemia mid-season... it's not ideal! To bounce back towards the end of the season is incredible. It's four weeks now till World Champs and two weeks to La Bresse. Some exciting racing is still ahead so it's time for some big training to prepare for the final two-three races of the year. I'm happy there's some racing left to chase another top step!" "I am so stoked that all the effort has paid off. The last few weeks have been so hard but to walk away with the win makes it all worth it. I just want to say thanks to everyone back home for all the support, it makes the victory that much sweeter," Hatherly said. Hatherly now spends a few weeks in Europe before the final round of the UCI World Cup in La Bresse, France and the XCO World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland in September.
  7. Photo credit: Michal Cerveny. The Czech course is one of Alan's favourite and the high-speed terrain offered an opportunity to put a hard-fought but disappointing top-10 at a muddy World Cup in Albstadt, Germany, last week behind him. An unusual 16:00 race start time (U23 races are usually held in the morning of race day) threw the usual preparations and gave the U23 riders almost a full day to ponder on the upcoming effort. Needless to say, it was unsettling! What did suit Alan was the Nové Město course, featuring dry and rocky sections as well as natural rooty climbs and fast technical descents.The start was flat-out as always, on a fairly wide track as riders launched themselves into the first climb. “I went super hard on the tar stretch out of the arena,” said Alan. “Getting up front on the start loop was vital to avoid congestion on the climbs and technical sections.” In a repeat of last weekend, Alan found himself off the front in the start loop again, taking a small selection of riders with him onto Lap 1. The cat-and-mouse games between a motivated top five began straight away as riders responded to the pacemaking, mostly from Alan and Swiss rider Filippo Colombo, latching onto the group and then dropping off again. By the final lap, the group had been whittled down to four riders, with Alan very much in the thick of it all. With just the top three making the podium presentation in U23, there was plenty at stake. The question was, who would make the first move? “When Vlad [Dascalu, from Romania] attacked on the second last climb I thought he had gone too early,” reflected Alan. “I tried to push harder up the climb but made a slight mistake and had to unclip.” As they crested the climb, Descalu disappeared into the thick forest. Alan's slipped wheel had dropped him back to third, with the Colombo hanging desperately onto second. Although his lead was mere seconds the twisty course and dense tree cover made the perfect screen for the escapee and the chasing riders never closed on the flying Romanian. But it wasn't over for Alan, as he ripped into the last couple of descents, laying aggressively into every turn and milking the course for every ounce of speed, hoping to steal second. But it was not to be: “Colombo came onto the final stretch just ahead of me, but by then even his 3-second gap was enough to hold me off,” Alan said. A satisfied Alan Hatherly finished in third place in just over 1 hour and 24 minutes. Photo credit: Michal Cerveny. UCI U23 Men's XCO World Cup, Nové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic, Results: 1. Vlad Dascalu (ROM) 1:23:44 2. Filippo Colombo (SUI) 1:24:05 3. Alan Hatherly (RSA) 1:24:08 4. Petter Fagerhaug (NOR) 1:24:28 5. Joshua Dubau (FRA) 1:24:28 Alan returns to South Africa for some downtime, with just one SA XCO Cup race on 16 June in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. Then it's back to Europe for another test against the world's best at round four of the UCI World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy on 7 July.
  8. A dream start saw Alan lead the field in the opening lap, but a dropped chain forced him back to 15th and required a monumental fight to secure 10th position after five slippery laps. Ahead of the race the African and South African Champion was buzzing to get back on a World Cup start line. A successful block of racing in April saw him claim bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and retain his African Championship title in Egypt. This would be the first chance in 2018 to prove himself against the world's finest U23 racers. Race week was dominated by talks of the weather forecast and discussions about tactics and equipment. Team Spur arrived to constant rain on Tuesday and saw the course deteriorate in front of their eyes. “Starting in the third row we knew I would have to dig deep on the start loop,” Alan said after the race. “If you’re not up front going up the first switchback climb you’ll get caught in so much lap traffic.” Alan made his way to the front of the bunch and set the pace, working to get the bunch down to a manageable size. With three other riders in tow, things were looking good for Alan. The rain then started and thunder was roaring above, turning an already slick course onto a mud bath. With the build-up of mud and grass on the drive train, riders were battling to keep the bikes moving at pace. “I was leading the guys up the climb and as I looked down I saw my chain pop off my chainring,” Alan said. “I got [the chain] back on fairly quickly but then had the wrong teeth lined up on the chain so I had to stop and put it on again.” The mechanical dropped Alan to around 15th place as the leaders continued their assault up front. The chase was now on to claw back positions. Alan put in a solid effort as he worked his way back to claim 10th in what he described as one of the “craziest races” of his career. “Despite the unfortunate mechanical I am happy with the race, the numbers are good. I’m not as used to the mud as some of the Europeans,” said Alan. Team Spur now travel to the Czech Republic for the third round of the UCI World Cup series in Nové Město na Moravě [Nove Mesto for short!]. Alan is looking forward to an opportunity to show what he's really capable of in what is expected to be drier conditions. Unfortunately, U23 racing is not broadcast live on RedBullTV, as with the Elite categories. However, Team Spur is trackside bringing you the race action this Saturday at 16:00 on twitter, so give them a follow: @Team_Spur.
  9. Ariane had a daunting challenge on her hands in Italy: a 104km route asking riders to ascend over 3000m. Not only that but her competition was incredibly fierce. The sport's most successful female racer, Olympic gold medalist, multiple XCO and XCM World Champion Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjå from Norway was on the start line alongside Poland's two-time Olympic silver medalist and XCO World Champ Maja Włoszczowska. A number of national champions had also targeted the race. In the build-up to the race Ariane had rallied support for a separate start for the women's category and the UCI and race organisers eventually obliged, setting the stage for a proper test of the individual strengths of the women gracing the race. The race began with an early attack from Lithuanian road time trial specialist Kataržina Sosna. But an experienced women's peloton let her go with the knowledge of what was to come. "We began to work as we made our way to the first climbs," says Ariane. "But after the first few bumps and single track sections, the group soon got smaller." The combination of climbs and technical descents was enough to split the group. As the climbs began to kick up into the Dolomites proper, the lead group dwindled, and it was soon down to just a handful of riders. "On the one steep climb Christina Kollman [Austrian XCM Champion] was forced to unclip and that got me walking as well," describes Ariane. "Maja and Gunn Rita were then able to pull a gap on the two of us." Ariane and Christina crested the climb only 30 seconds off the leading pair and began to chase on the descent. As the steepest part of the race loomed, Ariane was able to drop Christina. "From then on I was basically riding in third place. I was briefly overtaken on the final part of the climb but I flipped a switch and managed to get my head together to gap her again on the descent." The race finished with a few laps around the town of Spilimbergo, and Ariane noticed another chaser in the form of Swiss countrywoman Esther Süss. "I hadn't seen Esther for most of the day so was surprised to see her. Esther finished in fourth just 45 seconds behind me, which isn't much after a five-hour race!" said a relieved Ariane. Ariane was excited with her bronze medal at her first European Champs, behind first-placed Gunn Rita and Maja Wloszczowska with the silver. For Alan Hatherly the 10th African Continental XCO Championships in Egypt was part of a whirlwind journey from a successful Commonwealth Games in Australia, where he earned South Africa a bronze medal. Alan and Team Spur mechanic JP Jacobs touched down in Cape Town briefly before the pair was soon airborne again heading to Cairo and a very chaotic race week, where the were forced to adapt Alan's pre-race preparation. "The roads were just too risky and the traffic was too crazy to train in, so I used the few days we were in Cairo as rest before I kick off my final preparation for Europe in three weeks' time," says Alan. Searing heat in the week prior to their arrival had Alan and JP preparing for the worst. Fortunately, race week provided milder temperatures than expected, which made acclimatization a lot easier. The course was dry and flat and after a few hot laps Alan had it dialed. "The technical aspects were not too bad and with only 100m of climbing per lap we had around a 23km/h average speed," describes Alan. Eighteen riders took to the start line in the Elite Men's race, but Alan expected only fellow South African, Stuart Marais who would have the firepower to go with him. "I knew it would be Stuart and I who would be leading the race out," said Alan. "I went out at my own pace on the first lap and came through with a 10-second lead." Alan's lead continued to grow throughout the eight laps. "I used my Wahoo Elemnt to keep my pacing right and pushed my limits to keep my intensity up." Alan finished ahead of Marais in second, with Namibian Till Drobisch coming home in third. After his wrist injury, Alan is working to keep as much race intensity into his UCI World Cup build-up as he can. "I am very happy to walk away with the Elite African Continental Championship title again, and the points that go with it will help with my seeding in my first year racing Elite next year."
  10. The result took Team South Africa’s medal count at the games to 28 and comes just two months after Hatherly fractured both wrists in a high speed crash at the three-day Tankwa Trek stage race. After a flying start with Gaze powering to the front, and only Hatherly and fellow Kiwis Cooper and Ben Oliver able to keep pace, the field was blown to pieces and the stage set for an exhilarating battle for the medals. By the end of Lap 3, Hatherly, Gaze and Cooper had burnt off Oliver who dangled in no-mans land for the remainder of the race to come home in fourth. No stranger to the intense energy of an international games environment, having represented South Africa at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Hatherly knew he'd have his hands full containing two of the world's fastest Elite mountain bikers. Cooper (in 2015) and Gaze (in 2017) are both past U23 World Champions and were also Gold and Silver at the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, with Cooper having the edge on Gaze in a two-up sprint. According to Hatherly it was super tactical right from the start gun, especially with the three Kiwis in the mix. “I’m really happy with the result, considering eight weeks ago I suffered a broken radius and cracked wrist,” Hatherly commented after the race. “It went smoothly and I am happy to be on the podium.” “I think it was around Lap 3 where I decided to put one big lap in to try split us up a bit more,” he said. It proved to be a decisive move and with two laps to go it was a three-horse race. “That left Sam, Anton and I to eye-ball each other throughout the rest of the race.” “I felt really good out there,” he added, explaining that the wrists which had their first race run at the second round of the South African XCO Cup less-then two weeks ago, held up well to the demands of world-class racing. The three riders jostled for position throughout the remainder of the race and it wasn't until the final lap where the racing exploded. “Sam had a rear-wheel puncture and was forced to stop to re-inflate it. Anton took off immediately and it became one hot lap to finish it all off." said Alan. Gaze, who now sat in third, was quick to hop back on the bike as he hunted down the leaders. As they made their way up the penultimate rocky climb, Alan showed his class as he made way for a charging Gaze. Alan sat in third and continued to chase, but started feeling the effects of such intense efforts. "I started to feel the arms a bit at the end but it is expected after such a tough race. I am very happy to bring it home in third for South Africa.” In the Women's race, fellow South African's Mariske Strauss placed 7th while Cherie Redecker finished 11th.
  11. Githa Michiels. © Peter Deconinck/Photopress.be Although Lüthi's Cape Epic plans were dealt a blow by the sudden change in partner, the Swiss national believes Team Spur's goal of a victory in the Women's competition at the eight-day mountain bike stage race remains intact. Lüthi, a five-time winner of the race, is confident Michiels will be a formidable replacement for Christina Kollman-Forstner, who was forced to withdraw from the event. "Githa is powerful and a really hard worker and that is something that is rewarded at the Cape Epic," said Lüthi. "I am excited about racing against a very strong field in the Women's category at the Absa Cape Epic in 10 days' time. Mountain bike stage racing is all about how you respond to adversity and challenges, and I feel we have a winning attitude." Michiels is no stranger to top-flight racing, having represented Belgium at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and earned numerous top-15 UCI World Cup placings in her career. Michiels has had a strong start to the 2018 season, placing fifth in the four-day Cyprus Sunshine Cup stage race in late February. Githa Michiels. Michiels, who rides for the Versluys Pro Mountain Bike Team, will be competing her first Cape Epic but she couldn't hope for a more experienced guide in Lüthi, who will be tackling her eighth event. Team Spur's support staff also offer plenty of experience. Team Mechanic JP Jacobs is swinging his trusty tools for the 11th time at the Epic, with the rest of the management team adding a total of 16 Epics between them. Lüthi's previous partner Kollman-Forstner returned to her home in Austria a few weeks ago, after two weeks of unexplained illness while training in South Africa. Kollman-Forstner was diagnosed with an abscess in the root of one of her teeth and the offending tooth was removed. Unfortunately, it was too late to recoup the form she had been building and she reluctantly withdrew from the Team Spur setup.
  12. Christina Kollmann-Forstner bucked the trend, arriving to a sweltering Cape Town on Monday, 5 February. The reason? She's partnered up with another tough Alpine woman, Swiss national Ariane Lüthi, to race the Momentum Tankwa Trek, powered by Biogen and the Absa Cape Epic in the colours of Lüthi's Team Spur.The huge swing in temperature from Christina's home in Schladming, Austria, will take some adjustment and Lüthi and Kollmann-Forstner are already exploring Stellenbosch's hot and dry trail network together. The three-day Tankwa Trek mountain bike stage race this weekend will be about adapting to the heat, checking equipment and learning to compliment one another's racing styles, while the pair are focused on a top result at the Cape Epic in March. Lüthi is a three-time winner of the Elite Women's category in the Cape Epic, and a two-time Swiss Marathon Champion. She will line up for her eighth Epic with Kollmann-Forstner. Christina is the reigning European Marathon Champion, two-time Austrian Champion and has tackled the Epic on two previous occasions. Despite the new partnership, Ariane is confident the pair will be a formidable combination at both the Tankwa Trek and the Cape Epic. After a tough 2017 season, Ariane is back in impressive form. She kicked off 2018 with a dominant win at the 121km Attakwas Extreme in January, and was victorious at the two-day Fairtree Simonsberg Contour on the weekend. The small town of Schladming in Austria is revered among mountain bikers as a gravity riding hotspot and has hosted numerous UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cups. Yet it is among the the followers of snow sports that it has a truly global reputation, having been the venue for many FIS Alpine Ski World Cups and two World Championships. Not surprisingly then, Christina began her sports career as an Alpine skier, before moving to pro road cycling teams for a five-year stint. Christina couldn't deny her love of the mountains for long and said goodbye to the road to take up XCO racing, with immediate success. But it was her years on the road that would translate into her passion for marathon-style racing. Christina took on her first Cape Epic in 2014 in the Mixed category, finishing a credible 5th. In 2015 she was a last-minute replacement and raced alongside multiple Women's Champion Sally Bigham, but the pair didn't finish. "When Ariane asked me to race the 2018 Absa Cape Epic, I was super excited to fulfill our dreams of another shot at the top step," said Kollman-Forstner. With strong performances at the UCI Marathon World Championships in 2016 (eighth) and 2017 (fifth), Christina's pedigree is not to be understated. Christina will return to Austria on 25 February for a few weeks before returning to South Africa in March ahead of the Absa Cape Epic.
  13. Team Spur Assistant Manager and Soigneur, Tim Bassingthwaighte and Technical Manager, JP Jacobs are usually responsible for looking after the every racing need of XC hotshot (and newly-crowned Cape Pioneer Champ, with Matt Beers), Alan Hatherly, and marathon queen Ariane Lüthi. Now it’s their turn to pull on the red-and-black lycra… And there is some disagreement as to how this is all going to pan out. Team Spur Assistant Manager and Soigneur, Tim Bassingthwaighte and Technical Manager, JP Jacobs awaiting the arrival of their riders in the technical zone. “A week or two ago JP was joking, saying what I do is easy,” laughs Alan Hatherly. “He reckons, ‘I just have to ride my bike and can go have fun all the time.’ This is a bit of a role reversal for him and he can go and experience three days of hurt! So he can learn a lesson. Hahaha!” “No, they’re incredible guys and just the best support any rider could ever ask for. Everything is always sorted, you know, I don’t need to worry about anything. Tim does so much behind the scenes: Flights; car hire; buys the food; cooks the food. A whole bunch of other stuff… I’m really happy they get to do something fun together and I hope that they come out the other side with their friendship intact.” “Huge respect to them! I really hope they survive it well because we are going to need them a weekend later,” Ariane echoes Alan’s sentiments. “And, I don’t think they would want us to do their jobs - they’re going to be a lot better at doing ours than we could ever be at doing theirs.” “Anyone who knows my mechanical skills know how important JP is for me, I’m really reliant on a good mechanic! Body and legs are crucial, but equipment plays a big part in successful mountain-bike racing too. JP is not just a mechanic, I’ve worked with many different people in my career and I can honestly say JP is the best mechanic I’ve ever worked with, in all aspects. He’s a perfectionist, when it comes to stock and those kinds of logistics too, which is a big thing,” she says. Team Spur technical manager JP Jacobs hard at work. Photo credit: Johan Badenhorst. According to Ariane, not even the toughest of stages will test the bond JP and Tim have forged while on the road. “I mean, these are two guys who – when we go to Spur to eat – they’ll order different things and then share, going as far as to count out the chips. Double beds…who knows what else they’ve shared while on tour,” Ariane jokes. Team Director Nic Lamond looks at it from a practical, stage-race riding point-of-view. “Much as some of our top pro teams have to work out the strengths and weaknesses of their riding partners, JP and Tim are going to have to do the same,” he says. “JP is an incredibly skilled bike handler, but travels the most of anyone in the team. Supporting both Ariane and Alan, and, has come off the back of a very successful but also very strenuous season, so probably hasn’t put in the kind of time he probably should have. I think Tim probably has more of a diesel engine, so look for Tim to lead up the climbs and JP to fly the downhill singletrack sections.” According to Nic the sacrifices that pro athletes make is well documented, the sacrifices these two make behind the scenes of a successful racing outfit, is not. “Really it’s an opportunity to have the freedom of riding their bikes for a couple of days, without any worries of looking after someone else.” Tim Bassingthwaighte providing Alan Hatherly with a fresh bottle at the recent Cape Pioneer Trek. So, what do the boys think about these up-coming three days of ‘freedom’? Well, they are under no illusions: “Preparation wise, it is quite simple - JP and I aren’t prepared…at all,” Tim says. “We’ve been on one or two rides, wouldn’t call them training rides. Having said that, we really are looking forward to the event. We’ve heard some great stories and stuff about the route - some people say we will be fine, others have a complete opposite point-of-view. “We didn’t prepare for the event, because earlier this year we planned to ride but couldn’t get an entry,” JP explains, playing down the lack of time they would’ve had to prepare for a three day stage race of this nature anyway. “Then, at the 11th hour, Specialized gave us a ticket. At first we were going to turn it down because of the lack of training. However, after a bit of back-n-forth we decided, ‘screw it we’ll show them what we made of!” See just what the Team Spur boys are made of by following their antics at the FNB Wines2Whales Ride, on Team Spur’s social channels. Indeed, Tim might just have enough time at the top of some of the climbs to tweet….
  14. The Spur/Red-E and Spur/Valencia teams of Alan Hatherly, Matt Beers, Ariane Luthi and Amy-Beth McDougall secured the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, titles on Saturday the 21st of October in the Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn. Though both the men’s and women’s general classification champions were unable to win the final stage, surrendering stage victory to NAD Pro MTB and Ascendis Health, they still secured the overall victory by 1 minute 42 seconds and 1 minute 40 seconds respectively. Click here to view the article
  15. The final stage of the race was a 64 kilometre long loop from Oudtshoorn, through the Chandelier Game Farm and back to the capital of the Klein Karoo. It featured 1 150 metres of climbing, most of which took place on a series of steep loose shale climbs in the game farm. The route was far from easy, despite its relatively short distance and in previous editions, the stage had caused general classification shake-ups with riders puncturing and haemorrhaging time as panic set in. Alan Hatherly (left) and Matt Beers (right), of Team Spur/Red-E, raced to victory with 6 stage wins at the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Hayden Brown. Once again the grand finale served up drama, this time it was pre-stage however as the third-placed women’s team of Nicola Giliomee and Frankie du Toit were disqualified by the UCI commissaire for receiving outside assistance during stage 6. The Junto Ladies team had been forced to stop in the neutral zone to fix a broken valve stem. Team Spur mechanic JP Jacobs assisted Giliomee and du Toit in their repairs, as they were under the impression he could do so in the neutral zone, but the race commissaires ruled otherwise – evicting the third-placed team from the race. In the men’s race there was fortunately no mechanical or rule infringement induced position changes on the general classification. In fact, the only major team to lose ground was the SPOT Africa combination of Timothy Hammond and Derrin Smith. Smith is a part-time mountain bike racer, fitting training in around his busy farming schedule, and the exertions of the week were clearly taking their toll. He and Hammond eventually finished in sixth position on the stage, but managed to hold off the KTM Pro Team who finished above them on the stage to retain fifth overall. Gawie Combrinck attacks on a climb in Chandelier Game Farm in an final attempt to distance the Spur/Red-E team of Matt Beers and Alan Hatherly. Photo by Hayden Brown. At the front of the race Team Spur/Red-E were keen to make the going tough for NAD Pro MTB. Hatherly and Beers took the fight to Nico Bell, Gawie Combrinck and the KMC Fruit to Go team of Bram Rood and Gerben Mos. “We stayed with them for the first fifteen kilometres or so and then they just went to hard” Rood confessed. “We are happy with third place overall. The other teams are really strong so it’s okay that we are the best of the rest,” said the KMC rider. “The stage really suited me as it was either up or down, so there was no real advantage in drafting” Hatherly said. “As the yellow jersey wearers the unwritten rule is that we do not have to set the pace, we can just defend our lead. But we love to race so we helped NAD animate the racing” Beers elaborated. “It was pretty much full gas all day” Combrinck confirmed. “I really enjoyed the stage. I love this hard rocky riding.” Gawie Combrinck celebrates NAD Pro MTB’s first stage win of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Hayden Brown. With both NAD Pro and Spur/Red-E driving the pace; the leading two teams flew through the final kilometres and entered Oudtshoorn together. Once again it came down to a sprint finish but this time Bell and Combrinck emerged victorious after both riders outmaneuvered Alan Hatherly ahead of the sharp final turn. NAD Pro claimed a consolation stage win, but the 2017 Cape Pioneer Trek title went to Spur/Red-E; by 1 minute and 42 seconds, after seven days of racing. The women’s race was also tightly contested on the final day with the Ascendis Health duo Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz racing to reel in the remaining 2 minute and 29 second deficit to Spur/Valencia. Try as they might though they could not shake Lüthi and McDougall; even a spectacular crash by Lüthi, which left her with a saddle pointing skywards for the final ten kilometres. Though De Groot and Spitz crossed the finish line first, 49 seconds ahead of Lüthi and McDougall the Swiss and South African paring had done enough to win the UCI women’s competition by 1 minute and 40 seconds. Amy-Beth McDougall (left) and Ariane Lüthi (right) put in a defensive racing master class to hang on to their lead in the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. The pair eventually won by 1 minute and 40 seconds over Ascendis Health. Photo by Hayden Brown. When asked if she dug deep to fight back from being physically and emotionally spent to rise to the level of her Ascendis Health rivals, to match the level of her partner Lüthi, or to prove a point to herself McDougall responded: “A bit of all of those really. I gave everything every day and finished completely broken after each stage. I started the next stage knowing I would have to give everything again. It was really tough but I think I have proved something to myself.” Amy-Beth McDougall and Ariane Luthi celebrate their 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, title. Photo by Hayden Brown. In a category where both De Groot and McDougall suffered from injury or illness during the event, their ability to battle through the pain barrier to not just complete the stages but to compete at the highest level displayed once again the courage required to race as a professional mountain biker. Sabine Spitz (left) and Robyn de Groot (right) won the final stage of the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen on Saturday the 21st of October. Photo bye Hayden Brown. With the conclusion of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, the mountain biking fans can relive the drama of the race for a final time with the daily highlight video. The stage 7 highlights can be viewed on the Cape Pioneer Trek Facebook page and the Dryland Event Management YouTube Channel from 20:00, Central African Time, on Saturday the 21st of October. For more information on Cape Pioneer Trek please visit www.capepioneer.co.za.21 Results: 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by BiogenUCI Men | Stage 7 1. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrinck (2:25:03) 2. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (2:25:05 | +00:02) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (2:31:39 | +06:36) 4. Kelly’s Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (2:34:18 | +09:14) 5. KTM Pro, Moritz Bscherer & Manuel Pliem (2:34:36 | + 09:32) UCI Women | Stage 7 1. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (2:42:16) 2. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (2:43:06 | +00:49) 3. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (3:15:41 | +33:24) 4. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (3:23:37 | +41:20) 5. Anderson Transport, Louise Bezuidenhout & Anneke Viljoen (3:32:41 | +50:24) UCI Men | General Classification after Stage 7 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (21:52:57) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrinck (21:54:39 | +01:42) 3. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (22:17:03 | +24:06) 4. Kellys Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (22:36:14 | +43:17) 5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (22:51:43 | +58:45) UCI Women | General Classification after Stage 7 1. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (24:25:36) 2. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (24:27:17 | +01:40) 3. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (29:34:16 | +5:08:40) 4. Team Bicycling, Jenna Borrill & Tandy Kitching (31:21:37 | +6:56:00) 5. Anderson Transport, Louise Bezuidenhout & Anneke Viljoen (32:09:03 | +7:43:27) For all the results from the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen please click here.
  16. Alan Hatherly (left) and Matt Beers (right) raced to stage victory on Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, on Sunday the 15th of October. Photo by Zoon Cronje. The 96 kilometre long stage, which challenged riders with 1 650 meters of climbing, started and finished at Milkwood Primary School, in Mossel Bay, and took in a scenic loop through ripening wheat fields and nature reserves boasting all the members of the Big Five. The day started with a 7 kilometre long neutral zone through the town and the pace stayed relatively steady for the next 28 kilometres as a big group of favourites, excluding the Team Ascendis Health duo of Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz, made their way towards the first serious challenge of the day. Just before water point one, at the 30 kilometre mark, Nico Bell upped the pace on the first technical climb of the race. Bell’s acceleration split the group and soon it was only Hatherly and Beers who could hold the wheel of Bell and his NAD Pro MTB teammate, Gawie Combrink. “When NAD upped the pace we were the only other team to stay with them so I knew it would probably be between us for the stage victory” Hatherly reflected post stage. Matt Beers in action on his way to stage victory, during the opening stage of the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen. Photo by Zoon Cronje. The Spur/Red-E and NAD Pro teams were chased by the Kelly’s Bikeranch combination, of Jiri Krivanek and Marek Rauchfuss, and the KMC Fruit to Go riders, Bram Rood and Gerben Mos. The chasing teams were able to bridge across briefly in the Gondwana Private Game Reserve but could not maintain the pace of the four South Africans. Exiting Gondwana, Hatherly suffered a slow puncture but a quick wheel change at the water point, 75 kilometres into the stage, kept him within striking distance of the leaders on the road, Bell and Combrink. The NAD Pro MTB and Team Spur/Red-E riders set the pace during Stage 1 of the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen on Sunday the 15th of October. Photo by Zoon Cronje. The leaders came back together shortly after the water point and on the final section of gravel Hatherly and Beers made the decisive move. “We had planned to attack where the route crosses under the N2 and it worked perfectly, Gawie [Combrink] looked to be struggling so we capitalised and pushed on and once we hit the tar roads through Mossel Bay I knew we could hold them off” Beers elaborated.The Spur/Red-E completed the stage in a time of 3 hours 35 minutes and 32 seconds, 55.91 seconds ahead of NAD Pro MTB. With six days and 457 kilometres left to race the time gap of less than a minute is hardly significant, especially considering Combrink suffered a mechanical in the closing kilometres. “I had a slow puncture which we eventually had to stop to bomb when we reached the tar. That cost us some time” Combrink explained. “But fortunately Nico [bell] is pretty quick on the road, so we limited our losses.” In the women’s race, the Spur/Valencia team was utterly dominant as Robyn de Groot struggled with a recurrence of the injury which has hampered her season since May. Lüthi and McDougall opened a lead of five minutes by the half-way point in the stage, but as the stage neared its conclusion De Groot’s injury gradually warmed up allowing her to transfer power more effectively. “The Cape Pioneer Trek was my first stage race and my first race on South African soil back in 2010, so it has always been special to me. I felt really good today and Amy [McDougall] and I rode well together” Lüthi said upon completing the stage victory. “We had fun out there” McDougall added, “though I did struggle a bit towards the end when my chest closed up a bit.” Amy-Beth McDougall (left) and Ariane Lüthi (right) made it a perfect start to the Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, for Team Spur when they repeated the effort of the men’s team to win the opening stage. Photo by Zoon Cronje. “It was a tough day for me with my injury, so we just limited the losses as best we could” De Groot reflected. Spitz was more philosophical about their chances for the remaining six days “anything can happen in mountain biking” she smiled. “Of all people I know that,” she concluded, referencing her crash at the Absa Cape Epic earlier this year. The third women’s team was the Junto Ladies team of Nicky Giliomee and Frankie du Toit. “Today was the furthest Frankie [du Toit] has ever raced so we took it relatively easy”, Giliomee said. The shorter, punchy, stage two will better suit the young Junto women’s cross country strengths. Monday’s second stage – of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen – is 71 kilometres long, takes in 1 550 metres of climbing, and once again loops out and back from the Milkwood Primary School. The route explores the plains to the west of Mossel Bay and takes in the famous Pinnacle Point resort and the Bergsig Game Farm. Mountain biking fans can watch the highlights from every stage of the race on the Cape Pioneer Trek Facebook page and the Dryland Event Management YouTube Channel from 20:00, Central African Time, daily. While more information on the event is available at www.capepioneer.co.za and the stages can be followed live on event’s Twitter handle, @CapePioneerTrek. Results: Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen | Stage 1UCI Men: 1. Team Spur/RedE, Alan Hatherly & Matthew Beers (3:35:32) 2. NAD Pro MTB, Nico Bell & Gawie Combrink (3:36:28 | +00:55) 3. Kellys Bikeranch Team, Jiri Krivanek & Marek Rauchfuss (3:38:07 | +02:34) 4. KMC Fruit to Go, Bram Rood & Gerben Mos (3:38:50 | +03:17) 5. SPOT Africa, Derrin Smith & Timothy Hammond (3:41:49 | +06:16) Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, Stage 1 Podium. From left to right: Marek Rauchfuss & Jiri Krivanek (Kelly’s Bikeranch); Alan Hatherly & Matt Beers (Team Spur/Red-E), and Gawie Combrink & Nico Bell (NAD Pro MTB). Photo by Zoon Cronje. UCI Women: 1. Team Spur/Valencia, Ariane Luthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (3:57:05) 2. Team Ascendis Health, Robyn de Groot & Sabine Spitz (4:00:52 | +03:47) 3. Junto Ladies, Nicky Giliomee & Frankie du Toit (4:21:22.934 | +24:17) 4. Team Cape Brewing Company, Ila Stow & Marianne Bergli (4:42:31 | 45:26) 5. Anderson Transport, Louise Bezuidenhout & Anneke Viljoen (5:12:05 | +1:15:00) Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, Stage 1 Podium. From left to right: Sabine Spitz & Robyn de Groot (Team Ascendis Health), Ariane Lüthi & Amy-Beth McDougall (Team Spur/Valencia) and Frankie du Toit & Nicky Giliomee (Junto Ladies). Photo by Zoon Cronje. For the full results from Stage 1 of the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, please click here.
  17. The Team Spur squads got the 2017 Momentum Health Cape Pioneer Trek, presented by Biogen, off to the best possible start with stage victories for both the men’s and women’s teams. Alan Hatherly and Matt Beers claimed the win in the UCI men’s race for Team Spur/Red-E, while Ariane Lüthi and Amy-Beth McDougall were victorious on the first stage of the race, on Sunday the 15th of October, for Team Spur/Valencia. Click here to view the article
  18. “I'm a bit lost for words,” commented the 21-year-old shortly after the finish (around 8am SA time). “So stoked with the outcome, it was the plan from early on in the year to get this kind of result here.” The tactical race through the rainforest on the highly technical track at Smithfield Park in Cairns went just about according to plan, admits the young star, “We knew the heat and humidity was going to be a big factor, so JP (Jacobs, team mechanic) and I had our game plan for cooling well mapped out, this included ice towels during warm-up and ice water during the race." According to Alan – who started in pole position, as the highest ranked U23 rider – the start loop was predictably fast and caused an early split, after which tactics came into play. “We all sat up after the start loop and looked at each other to see who would pull,” he says. “By that time a group of seven had formed and we kind of worked together, but watched each other closely, as the tactics continued.” “Things got real on Lap 4,” Alan says. “Sam started going a bit harder up the climb and I – lying fourth – saw guys were losing his wheel, which had me a bit panicked because there was not much chance of overtaking there. “Fortunately with this track it splits on the climb where there are more challenging, rocky straight lines. I attacked through one of these just to get past the bunch and chase Sam down to make sure he didn’t get away too early.” Alan and Sam rode together for a lap before Sam made his decisive move at the top of the climb on the penultimate lap. “He got out of the saddle and kicked really hard, I was feeling really good with a constant steady pace so I couldn’t react straight away. I knew though, that if I rode a steady pace I’d have a chance of maybe pulling him back. However, he got about a 10 second gap and that’s how it stayed until the end.” “Just a massive thanks to everyone who helped along the way to get me to where I finished today, I couldn’t have done it without such an awesome support system,” Alan concluded. Director of Team Spur, Nic Lamond, believes this is just the start for the young Hatherly, "I'm over the moon. It is such a pleasure to work with Alan – a young talent whose professionalism is already so well developed. As a team we pride ourselves on a powerful launchpad for Alan to chase his dreams, but the work still has to be done. And Alan knows how to deliver that. So many heroes behind the scenes make these results possible: staff, coach, sponsors. Special thanks to Spur Restaurants, Specialized South Africa and Kargo International for having our back all season. We need some time to let it sink in, but the team is already excited to see what next year brings – don't forget Alan has another year in the U23 ranks!"
  19. Vallnord in Andorra – a tiny, mountainous principality in between France and Spain – is arguably one of the most beautiful venues on the World Cup circuit. The 4km course is surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Pyrenees mountains and features natural, forested tracks and exposed climbs. At nearly 2000m above sea level the race is held at the highest altitude of all World Cups. “I started in 11th, but still managed to get a really good start,” the 21-year-old South African said after the race. “From there I pushed my way through to about sixth by the top of the first climb.” According to Hatherly he lost a bit of time on the rocky descent as his confidence wasn’t where he would've liked it on the day. “I’d had one or two silly crashes in the build-up – because it had been so wet [during practice] – which threw me off a little bit. Fortunately it was dry on the day and I got my confidence back after a few laps.” The Andorran altitude was always going to be a factor and Hatherly managed it perfectly. “The key was just knowing where my limit was and not going too deep too early on, because you definitely pay the price for that at 2000m,” he said. Hatherly paced himself into third place as they entered the second lap, and found himself isolated between the lead pair – Denmark's Andreassen and Latvia's Martins Blums – and a chasing bunch. “I had a gap of about 15 seconds on the guys behind me and up front they were also about 15 seconds ahead. I found reference points on each lap which I used to check to see if I was closing the gap or not.” Hatherly realised he was lapping at about the same speed as the leaders, but was learning where on the track he could make up time. “With about three laps to go I started exploiting these areas and managed to bridge across to the two leaders. With two laps to go things heated up and we sort of played a bit of cat-and-mouse as we tried to work out who would make a move,” he says. This allowed the chase bunch to catch up as the group grew to five for the final lap. “There were a couple attacks that went and I knew they were way too hard and too early in the lap, so I sort of just paced myself out and then in the second half of the lap I went super hard.” According to Hatherly there was a massive wind-up toward the finish with everyone still in touch: "We went flat-out through the last tech zone and up the final little climb," Hatherly explained."Then we [Hatherly and Andreassen] rode away and entered the final tar stretch together where we both tried to sprint with absolute jelly legs. He managed to pip me with two bike lengths.” “It’s been a great week here and I’m really looking forward to Lenzerheide! On to the next one.” Hatherly, his teammate Ariane Lüthi and Team Spur head to Lüthi's home country of Switzerland this week for the fourth round of the UCI XCO World Cup in Lenzerheide.
  20. “Solid points in the bag ahead of Europe next week,” commented the 21-year-old after the race. “I’m really happy how it all played out,” he said. Earlier in the week Hatherly put in a request to race in the Elite category, instead of U23, in which he was the defending champion. His decision was based on the additional UCI points available for an Elite win (200) – U23 carries just 60 UCI points. Hatherly's goal was always the title, additional points for his up-coming European UCI XCO World Cup campaign was the real reason behind the mission to race in Mauritius. As expected the weather played a big role on the day. It had been raining all week on the Indian Ocean Island making track conditions challenging. “There was a huge rain squall early on Friday morning,” Hatherly picks up the story. “Even though the course wasn’t technical at all – mainly dirt roads with maybe 100m of singletrack – I knew it (the rain) would create a lot of tactics for the race. I was expecting a lot of cat-and-mouse on the flats…” Hatherly managed to get the hole shot into the first corner after the downhill start and entered the singletrack in the lead. “That singletrack section was complete chaos. It was similar to Cascades (a notoriously slippery national round of the 2016 SA XCO Cup in Pietermaritzburg) in the clay-type mud!” Hatherly lead out of the singletrack and onto the first road section, where he was overtaken by Arno du Toit. “The road was completely waterlogged,” Hatherly explains. “Arno had changed to mud tyres just before the race so he overtook me there because he wasn’t slipping as much.” “Then as we hit the first climb it was myself, Stuart and Arno,” he says. The climb kicked up and Hatherly put in an attack near the top of the climb, ‘to test the waters’. This effort allowed Alan to gap his two chasers. “At the top I had about 10 seconds and from there it was pretty much just controlling the gap, making sure that it wasn’t closing.” According to Hatherly the course rode better and better with each lap as it dried out. “There was the odd flash rain section which made things quite tricky because you’d go from hot, to cold (with the rain) back to hot with the humidity,” he says, explaining how he struggled to settle into a rhythm, but managed to extend his lead over the course to finish up front with a buffer of nearly three minutes.
  21. Kargo National, the specialist road freight distribution company, has been investing in South African cycling for over three years and will continue to do so in a new partnership with professional mountain bike team, Team Spur. Click here to view the article
  22. Team Spur consists of Swiss Marathon Champion and multiple Cape Epic winner Ariane Lüthi and Olympian and U23 African Champ Alan Hatherly. “We are very excited to join Team Spur for the upcoming season,” commented Leigh Oliveira, Marketing Manager at Kargo National. “Kargo National has always had a passion for mountain biking and we believe that this new venture will be a prosperous one.” “Alan has been such an outstanding ambassador. A great sportsman both on and off the track. We are proud to continue this journey with him,” Oliveira said. “Ariane Luthi shows such passion and commitment for this sport which ultimately every athlete needs to have in order to succeed. Kargo National looks forward to sponsoring and supporting both these talented athletes during the season.” “The relationship is fantastic continuity in their support for Alan Hatherly,” commented Nic Lamond of Podium Sports, which runs Team Spur. “It’s encouraging to see that they wanted to continue to support the country's pre-eminent mountain bike racer and believe he has the character and talent to make a global impact.” Hatherly will have his first chance to shine in Team Spur colours, in his preferred discipline (XCO), this coming weekend at the first round of the SA XCO Cup Series, which takes place at Rhebokskloof, outside Paarl in the Western Cape. “It’s the first XCO of the year so it’s going to be quite exciting to go out and see what happens,” Hatherly said. “My form feels good at the moment. I started my intensity block about two weeks ago and although I’m still in strength phase at the gym, my numbers are already better than last year, so I’m really looking forward to see what that relates to in a quite deep field with the Europeans.” Indeed the start list will be stacked, with a host of International riders in the country for training, confirmed to race. Apart from all the top local contenders, the start list includes fellow Specialized riders Sam Gaze (New Zealand) and Simon Andreasson (Denmark) as well as seasoned campaigner Manuel Fumic (Germany), Marcel Guerrini (Switzerland) and Martin Gluth (Germany) “I would like to go top three,” Hatherly said. “I think that is fairly realistic. It is a deep field with Sam, Simon and Marcel. Guys are obviously going to see where there form is. Also the guys racing Absa Cape Epic are also going to be testing the guns.” Hatherly believes the trademark Paarl heat is bound to be a factor. “It will count in the South Africans’ favour,” he said, before jokingly adding, “I think the Europeans are going to melt out there.” Hatherly will be racing UCI World Cups in the U23 category, but has elected to race the SA XCO Cup series as a Pro Elite. “The Pro Elite race is a Cat One [uCI Category 1], so it gives U23s an opportunity us to get more points as they mix U23 and Elites together, which is really good for me because to compete in other events for points becomes a bit hectic. Racing Pro Elite means the racing is much better, much faster, more competitive which makes it a better test for everyone.” Ariane Lüthi will also race in what is shaping up to be a stacked women's Pro Elite field, with local favourites Cherie Redecker and Mariske Strauss billed to be there, as well as a host of international riders.
  23. Five-time winner Ariane Lüthi (Team Spur) is eager to reclaim the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge title that she won consecutively from 2011–2015. But the Swiss marathon champion will be up against the strongest field ever assembled at Saturday’s 121km point-to-point race, which is considered among the toughest one-day races in South Africa. Click here to view the article
  24. The Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge will challenge some of the world’s top female racers on Saturday, covering a distance of 121km with more than 3000 metres of accumulated ascent. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za A crash in December resulted in Lüthi having to take some time off training, but she’s recovered fully and has been working hard on improving her skills, which will see her start the demanding race with her confidence levels at an all-time high. Her experience of the race route (which stays virtually the same) and the conditions, which generally include heat, a late-race headwind, rugged terrain and steep gradients, will all count in her favour. South African marathon champion, Robyn de Groot (Ascendis Health), the 2016 winner, is sure to be Lüthi’s biggest rival. Their mutual respect off the bike is admirable, but their rivalry on the bike is always fierce. For De Groot, winning the 2016 edition was one of her career highlights. The South African marathon champion went on to have one of her best years last year, no doubt buoyed by her early success at Attakwas, which was a confidence-boosting win over Lüthi, who was third. Swedish champion, Jennie Stenerhag, who punctured while leading last year, will return for another shot at the coveted the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge women’s crown in South Africa on Saturday. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za Current XCO World Champion, Annika Langvad (Specialized) of Denmark will also be on the start line, making her Attakwas debut. Winner of the past three Cape Epics (with Lüthi), Langvad is also a three-time former marathon world champion and her presence will change the dynamic of the race, even though she’s a first-time Attakwas competitor. “To win Attakwas this year is going to be a huge challenge that I’m super motivated for. This kind of competition pushes me to pay more attention to details when preparing for it. I can’t afford to have any lapses, no matter how small,” said Lüthi. “The crash resulted in some hiccups in my training. I will find out on Saturday at the race just how that affected my form. But in general, I feel strong and confident, which is always a good way to go into a big race like Attakwas. I’m very keen to win it again,” added Lüthi. But even with good form, Lüthi is taking a realistic approach to the event in which for half a decade she was unbeatable. “The competition will be the toughest yet. Apart from having Annika (Langvad), in the race for the first time, I believe that Robyn (de Groot), Jennie (Stenerhag) and the other women have all upped their game. It’s going to be a very exciting race,” she said. The Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge includes some rugged terrain through the Karoo and the Attakwas Reserve. Here Ariane Lüthi tackles a loose, rocky climb during the 2016 edition. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za For De Groot, Attakwas is virtually a home race. She lives in Glentana, which is a few kilometres from the finish. As the defending champion, she’s taking it seriously, but says the bigger goal remains winning the Cape Epic in March. “Attakwas is the hardest one-day race in the country for sure. It’s not often us ladies get to race an ultra-marathon. It’s always difficult starting with such a long, hard race at the beginning of the year. Obviously as a professional athlete, winning an iconic race like Attakwas is a major objective. We compete to win. But it will serve as a gauge as to how training has been going and what still needs to be worked on ahead of the Cape Epic. The Epic is pretty much Attakwas x 7!” said De Groot. For Langvad, the decision to race Attakwas came from the praise given to the race by Lüthi. “I start my studies again in February, but decided to come to South Africa for training and thought I would spice things up a bit by doing some racing. I also know the organisers from my previous participation at the Cape Pioneer Trek, which I enjoyed, so I knew that Attakwas would be worth paying a visit to. I’m really looking forward to it,” said Langvad on Monday night, just prior to boarding a flight to South Africa. The Dane escaped the icy winter at home recently and spent two weeks training in Majorca. But she feels the change in temperature won’t trouble her much. “It wasn’t hot in Majorca, but it was sunny. I will have a few days to get accustomed to the South African summer heat for Saturday. My rivals will obviously be more used to the conditions, but I’ll take one pedal stroke at a time and then we’ll see,” she said. Defending women’s champion, Robyn de Groot, is expecting a strong challenge in her quest to defend her title at the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge in South Africa on Saturday. Photo Credit: www.zcmc.co.za Also confirmed to start is last year’s runner-up, Jennie Stenerhag. The Swedish marathon champion has changed teams this year and will be riding the colours of CBC/Abro. She punctured while leading last year and will hope that her luck is better this time around as she pursues the coveted crown. Other notable names on the start list are South African XCO champion, Mariske Strauss (OMX Pro), Yolandi du Toit (Garmin), multiple South African road champion, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and former Attakwas winners, Yolande de Villiers and Ischen Stopforth. The event has been given International Cycling Union status for the first time this year. This ensures increased international media coverage, boosted prize money and UCI rankings points for top finishers, essential for riders like Lüthi, Langvad and Strauss, who will be competing in the XCO World Cup series later in the year, where start positions are based on rider’s points totals. The top women will start in the A batch on Saturday. The 121km race starts at Chandelier Game and Ostrich Show Farm near Oudtshoorn in the Karoo and finishes at Pine Creek Resort at the coast, near Groot Brakrivier. Follow the racing action via live-tweets on the @attakwas twitter account on Saturday from 07h00. For more information, visit www.atta.co.za
  25. What motivated you to move to Team Spur in 2017? Team Spur is known in the mountain bike industry as one of the best teams in the country. It has an incredible support system and team structure. The team is small, featuring just two athletes, which makes it an extremely driven set up to be a part of. They are also backed by incredible sponsors. To answer the question: when the opportunity arose for me to join Team Spur, I didn't hesitate! Joining Team Spur means a switch from Giant to Specialized bicycles. In the past few years you have ridden Momsen, Giant, and now Specialized bikes. Is it difficult to adjust to a new bike every year? Tell us a bit about your new bike setup and how it compares so far? It is difficult to adjust to new bikes every year, especially with vastly different geometries. That said, the Specialized Epic has been surprisingly easy to adapt to. A big factor is that Specialized managed to get me onto the new setup early in December allowing me to get all my base and strength work in on the new rig. It also let me put the bike through some really good pre-season testing to find the ideal setup. It feels incredibly fast and I'm really comfortable on the Epic leading into the 2017 season. We hear that you have moved down to Cape Town. Are you studying there or was it a move to benefit your training and racing? Have you made any other big changes for this year? I have relocated to Cape Town to better my training ground as well as be closer to the team head office and my coach John Wakefield. It has been a month since I've relocated and my training has definitely been elevated to another level. I'm really excited to get out and race my first few races of the season near the end of January! Obviously, XCO is your focus. Is defending your SA XCO Cup Series title a goal this year? Will we see you competing seriously in any marathon or stage race events? My focus for the 2017 season will remain XCO driven with the idea of top 10 UCI XCO World Cup results throughout the year and a top 5 finish at the UCI XCO World Championships in Australia. I would really like to defend my SA XCO Cup series title as well as claim the SA XCO title this year! I believe this season will also be the perfect platform for me to chase my 2018 goal of a medal at the Commonwealth Games. In the later part of the year I've planned to do some stage racing such as W2W. In the press release announcing your move to Team Spur, it was mentioned that you will be racing in Europe. How many of the European World Cup events can we expect to see you taking part in and which other races do you have planned in Europe? I will be taking on at least 5 of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup events which allows me to focus on a really good overall series result this year! For the time being I'm focusing mainly on the big international events which would be the World Cup events. What was the Rio Olympic experience like? Were you happy with how your race turned out and what was your strategy on the day? Rio was an incredible experience to have had so early in my career and it has definitely motivated me for a big result at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2020 Olympic Games. As far as my result - I'm really happy with the outcome of 26th even though I was aiming for a top 20 finish. The rain the night before and on the day created more bottlenecks and lap traffic than I think anyone expected, which wasn't good for me especially with my starting position being 46th (right at the back). This makes my final result satisfying enough because I was able to fight my way through the field to pass 20 riders and achieve 26th. I do feel if the weather was the way it was during the week (hot and really dry) a top 20 would have been on the cards. My strategy was to race steady and not get caught up in the first few laps' over excitement, with riders making silly decisions and riding over their limit. It is the main reason there were so many crashes and punctures. I picked the riders off one by one and attacked the last few laps to pass the riders who had gone out way too hot. Having been successful in Rio, do you already have one eye on Tokyo 2020? How do the uncertainties in selection play a role in your long terms goals? I have my eyes fixed on the 2020 Olympic Games - much earlier this time around which allows for a long term plan and mindset as well as another 4 years of World Cup racing experience. That will allow me to race closer to the front end of the field in 2020. As for selection, I aim to be clear of any conflict and be the first pick for the 2020 Games. The pool of pro teams in South Africa seems to be shrinking. What do you see the future holding for South African riders? The pro teams in South Africa do seem to be fading - which is a worry for the up and coming riders to get support to elevate their riding to an international level. I think the exchange rate crisis we had in 2016 had an effect on our economy and played a major role in sponsors not being able to support riders. I'm hoping to see many more development teams start up through 2017 into 2018 to assist the youth of the sport. With Team Spur, you will be involved in the Spur Schools League. How do you think the League has impacted MTB in South Africa? I will be very involved with the Spur Schools League this year - its crucial to get involved and show the roots of the sport the paths to follow to create careers from their talents and passion. The league draws out over 10 500 riders across the country which is massive and definitely expands the chances of our country developing future stars from a young age. I came through the inter-school league and it has been a major contributing factor to my success.
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