Alan Hatherly on what is, what was, what could be and what should be

South Africa’s foremost XCO export was in the mix for much of the very short international season, finishing on the podium at the second World Cup in Nova Mesto before unfortunately having his World Champs aspirations scuttled by an untimely stomach bug. We caught up with Hatherly to chat about what is, what was, what could be and what should be.

Alan Hatherly in action at the Nove Mesto World Cup mountain bike race in October 2020
Alan rode well within the top 10% of the field in all four World Cup events of 2020.

Firstly, what a weird season – just two weeks really. Tell us a bit about that? Yeah, it was a completely crazy season for us – to be training the whole year for two weeks as the main goal. I think we were incredibly fortunate to have an international season at all though and, to my mind, Nové Město was the perfect venue for back-to-back World Cups – it handled the volume of riders and it’s a course we could race, rain or shine. We ended up getting both during the week! I managed to time my form really well but racing back-to-back was a new one for all of us. Short track followed by XCO, followed by short track followed by XCO – it kind of became a world cup ‘stage race’ of sorts, but I actually really liked the concept and I hope they incorporate something like that going forward.

What did it take to get motivated to get back into the racing frame-of-mind? Motivation stayed high through lockdown, fortunately. We all switched to Zwift, which helped. I’m fortunate enough to have a really good trainer (a Elite Directo X) and it makes training super easy, these new smart trainers are insane with how real the feel is. Initially, we had high hopes of returning to racing pretty early  – I think the first ‘new’ World Cup date released was for end July, which initially gave me three months to get into shape and prepare. Those events obviously got canceled one-by-one, but I kind of held onto that shape (and motivation) to be ready for when it all happened.

So lockdown didn’t negatively effect your physical shape too much? Fortunately not too much. My coach, John Wakefield, came up with a long, steady, progressive buildup toward the end of the season and I just stuck to the programme. He had me do a lot of strength work on the trainer – low cadence intervals, to keep that high torque efficiency and power that you need for cross country. Coming out of lockdown and being able to ride outside was so weird though. The shape from indoors doesn’t translate directly to outside, if I’m honest. It’s a completely different thing and the way the power is transferred into the pedals is different, I guess. That took some work to get back, also the upper-body strength was also down, but we had a lot of time to get it all together and it worked out well at the end of the day.

Did you focus on other aspects of training during lockdown? Things you may not have in the past? I did do quite a lot of strength training yeah. Home gym type of stuff… My strength-and-conditioning coach, Warwick Cross, from the Sports Science Institute in Newlands, sent a bunch of workouts to do. These were mainly bodyweight and stretch-band work, so I kind of missed the big strength gains from actually lifting weights, but the maintenance was good.

So, has lockdown changed your training and philosophies changed at all? The philosophies changed for sure. During lockdown we had to adapt as it was all we could do. Cardio-wise I still believe in it (indoor training) but the heat adaption is tricky, it’s really hard to get the cooling you need to get the hear trate down during indoor efforts. I don’t normally hit the same heart rate values outside as I do on the indoor trainer, so it (indoor) definitely has a place in my training going forward.

Alan leads team mate Simon Andreassen down the XC gnar at Nove Mesto.

You were piloting the new S-Works Epic, looks like some machine? The S-Works Epic is incredible! The changes they have made has made it so stable, especially on a track like Nové Město that beats you up a lot. Having that stable a bike helps you relax a bit and keep your line and I think that is a big part of why Simon (Andreassen) and I went so well at Nové Město. With the new Roval wheels we were able to run a much lower tyre pressures too which provided a lot more grip and we weren’t compromising on anything on (tyre) safety, the new rims can really take a hit if you made a mistake, without giving you a flat. I think it is the ultimate machine for something like the Absa Cape Epic, I’m really excited to see how the bike and wheels go for Epic.

Where to from here? National Champs in November is my next goal, after which my 2020 season is done. I’m excited that it’s happening and looking forward to the final build-up and going to give it everything to defend my title.

Alan Hatherly in action at the Nove Mesto World Cup mountain bike race in October 2020
Alan rides a size medium S-Works Epic.

| IMAGES: Michal Cerveny |

| INTERVIEW: Jazz Kuschke |

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