Having spent four years in the Spur Schools League as a high school student the South African and 2018 Under 23 XCO World Champion is undoubtedly the series’ greatest success story to date. At the 2019 Absa Cape Epic Hatherly will take the next step in his career, racing alongside former U23 XCO World Champion, Sam Gaze. The pair are however not just racing for themselves, they are riding for good causes – in the form of The Specialized Foundation and the Spur Schools League.
The Specialized Foundation was founded by Specialized’s Founder and CEO Mike Sinyard in 2014. The foundation uses cycling as a tool for children to achieve academic, health and social success. Together with the Stanford Medical School and the cutting-edge work of RTSG Neuroscience Consultants The Specialized Foundation are looking into the treatment options for ADHD and using cycling as a tool to mitigate its effects. Over the past few years, they have brought this concept to life by working with schools across the United States to create cycling programs through their Riding for Focus initiative.
In South Africa, the Spur Schools League is a phenomenal success story. In 2018 over 5 000 individual students, from 500 primary and high schools across the country, took part in Schools League events. In total, 20 000 race entries were received during the 60 event provincial series, which culminated with the Inter-School Final at Bekker High School in Magaliesburg. Hatherly was in attendance at the 2018 final; showing off his freshly acquired world champion’s rainbow stripes.
Though Hatherly no longer rides for Team Spur his association with the Spur Schools League continues. As an ambassador for the league Hatherly will continue to inspire the next generation South African of mountain biking talent. While Spur Steak Ranches have extended their support of the league, which they helped found in 2008, to at least 2027.
Hatherly and Gaze’s Absa Cape Epic quest carries triple goals. The foremost of those is for the two young riders to gain valuable experience which will stand them good stead when they return for a tilt at the title in years to come. They do not line up entirely without pressure to perform however, Hatherly and Gaze will also be supporting the defending Absa Cape Epic champions Jaroslav Kulhavý and Howard Grotts in their bid to retain the yellow jerseys.
The final and perhaps most important goal to mountain bikers and fans of the sport is their association with The Specialized Foundation and the Spur Schools League. The invaluable work done by both programmes to facilitate and encourage children to take up cycling is impossible without the publicity which star athletes like Hatherly and Gaze generate. The Specialized Foundation will be raising funds for their Riding for Focus programmes throughout the 2019 Absa Cape Epic. While the presence of Hatherly, a league graduate, in the event will no doubt continue to inspire Spur Schools League competitors to pursue their cycling dreams.
Speaking ahead of the 2019 race Hatherly said: "I’m really excited to be racing the Absa Cape Epic. After living in Cape Town for the past 2 years, Table Mountain has become a part of my weekly training routes; so starting off with the Prologue there is going to be really special.” Showing that even World Champions suffer from the fear of mission out he divulged: “I’ve watched my training partner [NAD Pro MTB’s Matt Beers] race the last two years so I’m stoked to be taking part now and alongside the power house Sam Gaze. I’m excited to see how the race unfolds for us!"
Adding his voice to that of Hatherly’s Gaze revealed: “2019 will be my first Absa Cape Epic.” That does not mean the New Zealander is unfamiliar with the region and terrain however. “I’ve used Stellenbosch for my spring training base for a number of years, so I have seen a lot of the race and how impressive the event really is. To be able to finally jump on the start line this year is something I’m really excited about. Specialized has its strongest ever line up with three different teams, something I’m sure which will become important in the closing stages. Alan and myself have the honour of flying the colours for The Specialized Foundation, giving some sentimental value to the week. For this year, it’s about soaking up as much as I can, so that next season I can come back and attempt to really make my mark on the race. See you all in the sunny Western Cape” he concluded.
The Specialized Foundation team is exceptionally proud to have Hatherly and Gaze racing for their cause. “I founded The Specialized Foundation on the profound belief that cycling changes lives,” said Mike Sinyard, Founder and CEO of Specialized. “Imagine a day in the near future when doctors prescribe a bike ride as treatment for ADHD. This is bigger than Specialized. This is about how the cycling industry can come together to change the world for the better — and we’re inviting everyone to join us in making that happen.”