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Downtime with Rachel Atherton | Interview

Late February 2014 and we took a day to relax at the home of Atherton Racing, the epicentre of modern British downhill mountain biking. We were there to catch up with Rachel Atherton, the most successful British mountain biker of all time (with more World Cup wins even than Steve Peat), who approaches the 2014 race season bearing the titles of National, World and World Cup Champion – huge accolades that the smiley character seems to take in her stride. 

DIRT ISSUE 146 – APRIL 2014

Words by James McKnight. Photos by Laurence Crossman–Emms, Seb Schieck and Sven Martin

Having had what one would assume to be an exhausting career up to this point, with a never–ending amount of media coverage and relentless pursuit of victory, where life as a public figure has consumed nearly every moment (during the race season at least), with ‘home’ being that of her workplace, and having won everything there is to win, it is quite astonishing that Rachel stays motivated to train and go through what must surely at times become the rigmarole of ‘Being an Atherton’. But then hard work and devotion is something that this special family does very well.

What will the short–term future hold for Rachel Atherton? Undoubtedly it will bring more success, but could her desire to compete at the highest level and to better herself potentially take her on to even bigger things, away from downhill even?

Dirt: Do you ever feel you want to have a separate life away from Atherton Racing, away from it fully?

Rachel: Well it’s interesting you know, because we’ve obviously lived together our whole lives and that’s one of the reasons we are who we are, and the business – we’ve built it up and it’s at the house, but 100% it’s changed over the last year. We’ve made the decision that if we want to expand the business and push it, for it to achieve what we want it to achieve in the future, then we’ve got to separate it out. It’s got to be a business in its own right, it’s got to have its own property and stand on its own two feet, and we need the space and stuff. So the next couple of years things are going to change, and I think that’s good, isn’t it? Change is good for everyone.

So you really do think of it as a ‘business’? You’re really thinking about the future?

Yeah, because you’re not going to race forever, we’ve worked hard to build up a name and the brand of Atherton Racing, so we obviously would be stupid to not take that somewhere, even after we’ve finished racing. Or Brownie (Dan Brown, team manager) to take it somewhere (laughs).

What do you think is a good career length for a mountain biker is, or for any athlete?

I dunno. It depends physically how long I could keep doing it because any sport is so tough to do. Being an athlete isn’t very good for you I don’t think. Mentally you can turn it on or off; if you’re up for it, if you think ‘right, I’m going to do this for another couple of years and then that’s it’, that gives you an extra buzz. There are always things mentally that can help you raise the game, but physically you’ve got what you’ve got and that’s probably what’ll stop people in the end. And living in the UK makes you old…

You’ve had amazing seasons over the last two years?

Well, standard… no not standard, it’s just what you aim for. Two good seasons out of f–king 10 years is not that good (laughs).>>

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