Alan Hatherly was inspired by the late Burry Stander and finally matched the original mountain bike kid’s achievement when he took silver at the U23 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Australia earlier this month.
Hatherly cut his teeth on BMXs at the age of six before turning to mountain biking where he tried his hand at downhill and cross-country racing as a junior.
“I then went full XCO and I realised that’s where I wanted to be,” said the 21-year-old from KwaZulu-Natal.
“Seeing Burry at that time, going to Olympics and Commonwealth, it showed me where racing could take me. That’s where I aspired to be, on the top step of a world circuit race.”
Hatherly has followed closely on Stander’s “wheel” since his introduction to the sport.
At the age of 19, Stander finished 17th at the world championships. At the same age, in 2015, Hatherly placed 27th.
Hatherly improved to 17th last year while Stander finished 6th at his second attempt.
Both placed second in their third appearance at the championships.
“To finish on the podium at world champs, I’ve got absolutely nothing to complain about.
“There was a lot of happiness and excitement. It took a long time for it to sink in.”
He has had a whirlwind season, including a podium at the World Cup event in Andorra in July en route to finishing fifth overall in the UCI World Cup Series.
Hatherly also won the South African National Mountain Bike Championships, where he competed in the elite category.
“It was a relatively long year, but, on the whole, it was really good, especially compared to last year.
“To finish it off with a podium at world champs is a really awesome way to end everything and it also helps with confidence for next year.”
With every box seemingly ticked, Hatherly said he still had grand plans for his final year as an U23, including a win at the opening World Cup race in Coetzenburg, Cape Town, in March.
“For the rest of the year I’d really like to podium consistently. If I can manage that then I think an overall series win is very possible.”
He said the Commonwealth Games the following month as well as a stab at the rainbow jersey at the world championships in Switzerland in September were realistic targets.
“The track in Lenzerheide has always suited me and I feel I’ve done well there in the past. To go for the rainbow stripes there would be big for me and is definitely another goal on my list.”