Round three of the 2019 Mercedes Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Series headed to Andorra in the high mountains of the Pyrenees. For the remainder of the season, the UCI World Cup events will double up with XCO and Downhill. This adds to the excitement in the race venue with double the number of riders and teams searching for their respective results.
Specialized’s Alan Hatherly spent some time in Clarens in the Free State before heading to Europe for the current block of racing. The goal, to work on his altitude training in preparation for Andorra which sits at 1900m above sea level and Les Gets in France for the upcoming weekend at 1400m.
Altitude racing and training is something special, the lower oxygen concentration means riders fight for each breath and recovering from your efforts is a slow process. “I think I lacked some high intensity sprinting after my altitude training back in S.A. I’m still fine tuning my altitude work and it’s a constant learning process.” explained Alan.
Starting the short track on Friday, Alan went in with good focus after some solid results in his previous short track events. However, as he soon learnt, altitude training and racing zaps your high-end power. “I am able to sustain one pace the entire race, which is good for the XCO, but the sharp pace in a Short Track race meant I battled to stay near the front end.” describes Hatherly. Finishing in 23rd place, Alan would line up on the third row for Sunday’s XCO.
As temperatures rose, the Elite men prepared for their start on a dry and dusty course at 14:50 on Sunday afternoon. The crowds came out in force to watch the top riders do battle in the harsh conditions. The fans were eager to catch all the action as they edged closer to the bunting tape. “A rider up front hooked his bar on a spectator which forced a backup, before I knew it, I had lost a bunch of positions,” reflects Alan. “As soon as you are mid-pack you get caught up in track congestion and we were forced to wait our turn entering the singletrack sections.”
As the racing settled down, the field spread out and Alan settled into his race as he counted off the laps. “I started feeling good after the first few laps and found myself just behind the top 20 group again. Altitude has never been my favourite race, but I am learning to deal with it and by the final lap I was able to put in a good surge,” reflects Alan.
Finishing in 27th, Alan is still searching for the top 20 where he knows he is capable of finishing. “Looking at the time gaps from Andorra to the previous UCI World Cups and comparing where I finished to the winner, I am closing that gap which in itself is a positive. It is progress and I am working my way forward,” explains Alan.
Travelling to Les Gets in France on Monday, Alan will get his first ride on the track on Tuesday morning. “I am looking forward to another week of preparing for the UCI World Cup, I have heard good things about the track, so I am excited to get out there again.
The fourth round will kick off on Friday evening at 18:15 with the Elite Men Short track. Tune in to RedBullTV to catch all the action.