The comeback queen strikes again
There may be no one better than Hattie Harnden on the final stage of an enduro race.
Last year, she regularly secured big results late in Enduro World Series races, winning in Loudenvielle and La Thuile on the last stage, as well as securing a silver. In her first ever trip to the legendary trails of Whistler this past weekend, Harnden picked up where she left off, winning the last stage of the day to jump from third to first overall, four seconds ahead of second place Morgane Charre.
“Crazy, it’s always been a dream,” Harnden said after the race. “I think it’s every cyclist’s dream to win in Whistler.”
Harnden began the weekend with a Pro Stage win on Saturday, taking a four-second lead into Sunday as well as earning valuable points towards the EWS overall standings. The buffer proved pivotal as she eased into the second day, finishing ninth on Stage 1 and dropping to fourth overall after a crash-free but messy run.
She bounced back on Stage 2, taking second and climbing to second on the day, but then a heavy crash on Stage 3 threatened to derail her chances of winning.
“Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as it initially seemed, and I got back on and carried on,” Harnden said. “And then Stage 4, I had another good stage, finishing fifth. Everyone’s getting pretty tired by this point, me included. It was a long day. So I just rode the best I could and put together an OK run. It felt messy to me, but obviously everyone’s tired, and so everyone’s feeling it.”
Heading into the final stage, Stage 5, Harnden sat third overall, 10 seconds behind leader Andreane Lanthier Nadeau. At that point, Harnden and the rest of the field had done roughly 1,700 meters of climbing on the pedal (only one of the runs had a lift) and nearly four hours of riding.
Whistler also tested riders with different hillsides and types of terrain. By the end of the day, the competition was physically and mentally drained. That’s when Harnden shined brightest.
“That last stage I just gave everything I had,” Harnden said. “The last stage was the same as the Pro Stage the day before, so I knew I could do a really good run. And I went for it on the big step down. I just decided it was now or never and went for it. I knew I could do it. And it paid off.”
Harnden is one of mountain biking’s most versatile athletes. Just two weeks ago she won the U23 British national championship for cross country, and she is also the reigning elite national champion in cyclocross. Her unique skill set and all-around fitness seem to always come through at critical junctures in enduro racing.
“I think my fitness allows me to stay more consistent throughout the day, so rather than fading at the end of the day, I’m able to still put down a good run,” Harnden said. “Also being able to pace your day and not going into the first stage too hard, I like to build as my day goes on, and build momentum.”
Mirroring her weekend, Harnden seems to be building momentum through the EWS season. After taking fourth at the season opener in Tweed Valley and 34th at Petzen Jamnica (thanks to a very poorly timed puncture), she won the queen stage in Val di Fassa to take third before securing her first win of the year this past weekend. She is now third on the overall EWS standings.
Harnden had been looking forward to racing in Whistler since the start of the offseason, and busted out a slick new paint job on her Slash to commemorate the occasion.
“I think the new shiny bike helped me go extra fast,” Harnden laughed. “I’m super stoked to win, and really lucky to have Andy [Lund, my mechanic,] and the rest of the team to help. It was an amazing week and I’m excited to come back to Whistler one day. I’ve only scratched the surface really.”