Hattie got a little help from her friends in her comeback ride
Hattie Harnden, just six weeks removed from a fractured radial head, wasn’t feeling confident in the days leading up to Crans-Montana. She had been back on her bike for just two weeks, and she was conscious of her just-recently-healed elbow as she took dusty, rocky corners on her bike.
But as soon as the race started, Harnden settled back into her competitive zone. She quickly learned that she didn’t need to worry, winning Saturday’s Pro Stage by nearly four seconds over Isabeau Courdurier.
“I wasn’t feeling completely settled on my bike,” Harnden said after the race. “But by the time we got to racing, I felt up to speed and I felt like I could push and I was confident, most importantly, with my own abilities. Just confident and comfortable.”
Harnden went on to take second overall on the weekend, just over six seconds behind Courdurier, after an eventful Sunday that included quick-thinking repairs with help from her friendly competitors.
Harnden and Courdurier raced neck-and-neck throughout the day. Stage 2 — the first stage on Sunday — was the tightest, with Courdurier winning by just 0.1 seconds over Harnden, who was over five seconds ahead of third-place Morgane Charre. Courdurier pipped Harnden again on Stage 3, beating the Brit by 0.2 seconds.
Then on Stage 4, Harnden’s adventurous weekend truly began.
Harnden suffered a puncture near the top of the stage on a pedally section just before a rocky descent. It was the longest stage of the day — the Queen Stage — and Harnden had roughly five minutes still to race. Harnden had a choice: Repair the tire right then, or race on with a flat. She took the latter option, salvaging fifth place on the stage but damaging her rim in the process.
“I just had to keep going, because if I’d stopped I would have lost even more time,” Harnden said. “I lost 20-25 seconds to having a flat tire, and then obviously damaged my rim on the way down. It was the rockiest stage.”
Enduro is one of the most wholesome disciplines in mountain bike racing, and the moment when Harnden reached the end of Stage 4 illustrated why. She wouldn’t be able to race the final stage on a broken rim, so several of the top riders in Crans-Montana helped her jerry-rig a functional wheel by using zip ties to keep the tire and cracked rim together and secure.
“It’s very much the spirit of enduro that competitors help each other out in these situations,” Harnden said. “I was really lucky that the top girls that I was racing with helped me out, and then they went off to go up to the start of the stage because they didn’t want to be late. Then the top boys helped me because they came down right after. Everyone was putting all their spares together to give me the best chance.”
Harnden was fully prepared for the situation. She had many of the spare parts that she needed inside the downtube storage compartment of her Trek Slash. Quickly fixing the wheel required zip ties and tape to help adhere the tire to the wheel, as well as to secure several spokes that had come loose. She also needed two CO2 canisters, a new tube, tire levers and a plug for the tire.
Harnden’s preparedness is thanks in part to the influence of Tracy Moseley, who has helped mentor Harnden.
“Tracy taught me a lot about always being prepared and taking enough, and that’s why I also had my little backpack on for the first few stages, just so I could carry an extra layer, extra warm gloves, all of that,” Harnden said. “All the spares I keep inside my frame, so I don’t have a camel hump on my back from having things filled in my pocket. It’s amazing, and really, really helpful. And then it stays there. And so whenever I go on a ride at home, it’s all there.”
Harnden hadn’t raced since winning in Burke last month, missing Sugarloaf because of her injury, then waiting out a four-week gap between EWS races. Her goal is to win every race, but given the long layoff, she was ecstatic with the results in a comeback performance.
Harnden is currently fifth on the EWS overall standings, just 30 points out of third place despite sitting out Sugarloaf. With another strong performance at the EWS finale in Loudenvielle this weekend, she could take her first career elite overall podium.
“It’s a shame to be six seconds short, but obviously I had a helluva ride,” Harnden said. “Like, I’m super happy. I couldn’t be more happy to come back from an injury and to almost slot back in where I left off in America. The speed is there, and hopefully next weekend I can put a really, really solid race together.”
Harnden’s Trek Factory Racing teammate Pedro Burns also had a strong weekend, finishing 30th among the men for his best result of the year so far. Burns is fighting to get back in the top 20 of the men’s field after losing his 2021 season to a broken ankle. Watch out for him to give everything he has to close the season in France.