Hatherly, Bekker and Du Toit Take Gold at Continental MTB Champs
South African cyclists dominated the 2017 African Continental Mountain Bike Championships which took place in Bel Ombre, Mauritius from 12-14 May. Alan Hatherly took the gold medal in the elite men’s cross-country event, and the junior title went to Rossouw Bekker. Arno du Toit, who placed fifth in the elite men’s XCO event, took the top spoils in the c0ross-country marathon 65km race.
Hatherly earlier in the week lodged a query with regards to riding for the elite points, as he is still competing in the U23 category, which was approved. He competed as an elite rider following a letter of derogation from UCI (International Cycling Union).
Compatriot Stuart Marais finished in second place, while Mauritian Yannick Lincoln rounded out the podium.
“There was an early storm in the morning that swept through the course, which made the riders worried because of the mud,” said Hatherly.
The track however was majority road surface, and close to only 100 metres of single track in total. “It wasn’t technical at all but I knew it would create a lot of antics for the race, especially if a lot of the guys were having a good day,” he said.
There was a total 160 metres of climbing on the course, but all in one climb, which got tricky for the legs of the riders towards the last few laps. Hatherly managed to break away early in the race and kept the gap consistent throughout.
“The course got easier and easier as the race went on because it started to dry out a bit. It’s great to have some solid points in the bag just before Europe, I’m really happy with how it all came together,” he said.
Hatherly thanked his team for the opportunity, and is now in Europe preparing for his UCI MTB World Cup campaign, which kicks off this coming weekend in Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic. He then heads off to Germany to take part in the following weekend’s World Cup in Albstadt.
The U23 men’s race saw Namibian Tristan De Lange take top honours and Lesotho’s Tumelo Makae claim the second spot. South African mountain biker, Henry Liebenberg fought the battle to round off the podium in third place.
In the junior men’s race, Rossouw Bekker beat South Africa’s Pieter du Toit and Namibia’s Alex Miller who crossed the line in second and third respectively.
“My African Champs trip was something I’ll never forget and I really enjoyed it,” said Bekker.
The riders only got to experience the track for the first time on Wednesday last week, which was very muddy and slippery. “There was a lot of climbing and the only technical part was the mud,” he added.
Bekker feels that the race definitely went his way: “I didn’t make too many mistakes, I felt good on the bike, I had good legs and my bike was working perfectly. It was pretty much the ideal race.”
This was the second time that Bekker had taken part in an African Continental Championship (his first being in 2014 in the Western Cape). Bekker described the racing as tight with some tough competition, especially from strong Namibian riders.
He now heads to Pietermaritzburg this weekend for the SA National MTB Marathon Championships, which take place at Cascades MTB Park on Sunday 21 May.