In one of many biggest returns to racing within the historical past of our sport, Rachel Atherton took the win on the first spherical of the 2023 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill in Lenzerheide final weekend. The British rider’s fortieth World Cup Win comes after an prolonged break from competitors.
This was Atherton’s first race since Lenzerheide in June 2022, the place she positioned sixth. Earlier than that, we hadn’t seen Rachel at a begin gate since 2019 when she snapped her Achilles tendon in Les Will get. And naturally, her time away from racing was additional extended with the beginning of her little lady, Arna, in 2021.
We’re over the moon to see Rachel again doing what she loves, and again to her successful methods! After the mud settled, we caught up with the DH famous person to learn the way she felt all through the weekend, hear her reflections on her race run, and to study whether or not or not she’ll be defending that chief’s jersey in Leogang subsequent weekend!
We additionally grabbed Rachel’s AM200 M to take a look at her most well-liked settings for race day.
Interview: Rachel Atherton
Bikerumor: I believe I’ll have simply witnessed one of many biggest returns to racing within the historical past of the game. Congratulations! How does it really feel to win the primary spherical of the season?
Rachel Atherton: It feels completely surreal, 100% hasn’t sunk in but. I actually had no thought whether or not i’d even qualify – I used to be so nervous! It’s simple and cozy for me coaching at dwelling at Dyfi Bike Park on tracks that I do know nicely, however a World Cup is one thing else solely – all by way of observe I actually struggled. There have been positively factors that I virtually didn’t race, I simply had no thought if I used to be using nicely or not and the opposite ladies appeared so good!
Bikerumor: How a lot alternative have you ever had by way of winter and spring to attempt totally different setups in your race bike?
Rachel Atherton: Effectively I journey so much at dwelling – Dyfi Bike Park – I journey downhill just about each Friday and Saturday and it’s a mixture of enjoyable laps with pals and quick gnarly laps! The final couple of months I’ve been attempting to take it extra critically and beginning to attempt full runs as I’ve thought extra about racing.
It’s such a course of although. After I had Arna, I simply wished to journey for enjoyable. It was so refreshing for me as a racer, to not put that strain on myself and simply journey for enjoyable and benefit from the laps and to not stress about what line I’m on, is it quickest, to not care if the group of pals stops so much to talk and so forth. It’s been wonderful to not be pushing myself to be quick on a regular basis however as a substitute to only journey and I really feel like as a motorbike rider I’ve gotten higher due to that.
I’ve had a number of bike time which actually counts for one thing!
When coaching full time, I by no means actually had a great deal of bike time as a result of I’d be so exhausted from the gymnasium and so forth. I’d simply flip up, do 5 full runs, then go dwelling, so this new tempo of shredding all day with mates, having amusing, attempting issues like silly strains, large jumps, doing huge trains and so forth., and so forth… I really feel prefer it’s actually added to my bike dealing with expertise and that feels so good!
Since I began interested by doing a number of races this season, the final couple months I’ve positively began to work on my setup extra, however naturally as I’ve gotten quicker since having Arna child, your bike setup will get higher as you journey higher.
However world cups are simply so totally different so it was superior to be again within the Fox pits with Jordi, Jules and the gang getting their recommendation!
Bikerumor: When did you resolve you have been going to race in Lenzerheide and what components performed their half in that?
Rachel Atherton: I suppose I’ve all the time identified that I wished to do one thing this yr. I raced Lenzerheide in 2022 and was sixth, and that was actually with no coaching in any respect, simply chilled using at Dyfi Bike Park. And, as I stated, dwelling on the Bike Park has given me a lot.
Different execs come up and we journey collectively – I journey hundreds with Brendan Fairclough when he comes up, Bernard Kerr has simply moved to our native city to shred extra, Peaty and Laurie, Jordan Williams, even Nina. Different racers come to coach at Dyfi so much and that offers me such an excellent alternative to journey with them and after I can type of sustain with the lads it will get me buzzing and fired up and it could all the time make me query, “ought to I race once more” it’s all the time there in my thoughts after I journey quick as a result of I really like racing, it’s in my blood, I can’t escape that have to go quick!
So, I knew I wished to race however I additionally don’t need to get harm. I don’t need to be silly, I’ve a child, i’ve a number of accidents, I do know I want to coach like **** to race world cups. There’s a motive everybody trains so laborious, however I didn’t have the power to coach laborious as a result of Arna didn’t sleep very nicely, so I waited till she began to sleep higher and I felt like I got here again alive after I acquired some extra sleep, so then I wished to coach.
I began coaching while she napped and actually I’ve been coaching for about 2 months. It’s helped my psychological well being a lot after which as I began to get a bit stronger I believed… Effectively, the “shortest and best” monitor is Lenzerheide! So, right here we’re!
Bikerumor: What have been your expectations coming into Lenzerheide?
Rachel Atherton: Actually, I had no expectations! The ladies’s discipline is so quick now… watching on monitor the primary day, I used to be actually like “wow” they’re going for it!
Vero Widmann did this excessive line hopping over a rock into the off camber and I used to be on my first observe run. I might barely see a line and he or she was flat out already. I used to be like, oh s**t!
I wasn’t even positive that I’d qualify. I simply had no thought, however I stored saying to myself, “that is only for enjoyable”. I selected to be right here. I talked to Dan and Gee so much and all of us stated, I’m not right here to win, I’m simply right here as a result of I find it irresistible and I simply need to race and be with the crew and promote Atherton Bikes!
Bikerumor: You place in a critically aggressive qualification run. Did you’ve gotten the win in your sights at that time?
Rachel Atherton: That was such an enormous shock to qualify in 2nd after which 2nd in semi finals too. I used to be so shocked! Then I believed “don’t be silly Rach, bear in mind the purpose, I’m not right here to win, I’m right here to race and put down a stable, protected run that I’m pleased with”.
I 100% wasn’t attempting to win, I simply stored telling myself to be robust, breathe deeply, and be f***ing protected!
With the brand new schedule it’s so much more durable bodily doing two race runs again to again in sooner or later. It’s savage on the physique, so I used to be nervous as hell. However, it did give me extra confidence that I have to be using my bike nicely and I have to truly be stronger than I believe I’m!
Bikerumor: Inform us extra about your race run – do you know it was going nicely for you?
Rachel Atherton: By race day the bike felt wonderful. The AM200 M is a critically good bike, and that makes you’re feeling assured immediately. I wished to only do the identical as semi finals. If I might get 2nd or third, I might’ve been so, so stoked.
My strains have been intelligent and protected and that made me really feel assured. I knew I wasn’t taking any dangers, and when you begin that race day, it’s a snowball impact. The entire day is constructing and main as much as the the ultimate run – the entire crew get you to that begin gate.
My run was superior, my observe runs we’re actually good so I knew I might do the identical once more, despite the fact that I felt actually flat on the high earlier than my run. As a result of we’d already raced semi finals, it was laborious to get fired as much as race once more, and I used to be fearful that I felt drained, however I appeared over at Vali within the begin gate and I believed “we’ll all really feel the identical, we’ll all be drained” in order that helped!
My run was fairly rad. I fucking love racing as a result of that’s the one time I journey like that – tremendous dedicated to the gnarly sections and able to lean into the turns a tiny bit extra, and brake slightly bit later… the monitor right here is fairly gnarly and a few sections the quicker you hit them the simpler they’re, just like the off camber roots, and a few just like the steeps. I must be sluggish to be quick.
It was a reasonably good run so far as I’m involved, no large dangers, not tremendous sketchy, simply stable and quick.
Bikerumor: On the threat of stating the apparent, you do now have a frontrunner’s jersey to defend. Will we be seeing you in Leogang subsequent weekend?
Rachel Atherton: It’s been a day of deciding that!!
We have been planning to remain right here in Lenzerheide for 2 days vacation then fly dwelling. So, we’ve been speaking all day in regards to the execs and cons of me racing Leogang.
Initially, I stated no, as a result of I don’t need to be silly, racing again to again is difficult sufficient while you’re absolutely match, however I haven’t skilled sufficient and I don’t need to get harm so I believed I’d go dwelling, however the temptation is an excessive amount of so we’ve determined I’ll go and race!
I’m not racing a full season so it’s not like I’m chasing the general title, however it simply feels so cool to be doing this once more and if I went dwelling I’d most likely get actually down, so I’m prolonging the inevitable!
Bikerumor: Not a query: simply need to thanks for being the unbelievable function mannequin you’re, and congratulations in your fortieth World Cup DH win.
Rachel Atherton: Aww thanks, Jessie-Might.
Professional Bike Verify: Atherton AM200 M Downhill Bike
Rachel rides the Atherton AM200 M downhill bike; a devoted mullet with 200mm of rear wheel journey pushed by Dave Weagle’s DW6 linkage. At 5ft 7″ (170 cm), she’s on a 460mm attain with a 50mm stem and a 450mm chainstay size.
Mechanic, Chris Kenward, tells us that Rachel prefers to run her suspension on the stiffer facet. The Fox 40 Manufacturing facility Fork’s air spring is populated with 5 quantity spacers and 83 PSI. The Fox DHX2 Coil Shock is about up with a 475 lb/in spring. Neither damper is the present inventory damper.
Rachel’s drivetrain is about up with 165mm cranks from FSA, with the OChain Energetic Spider within the 9° place. On the rear, we see an 11-speed FSA cassette with the highest two cogs eliminated to make it a 9-speed cassette. Chris tells us that, at dwelling, the Athertons restrict the underside finish of the cassette (take away the toughest two gears) as they prefer to pedal the bikes round Dyfi Bike Park. FSA don’t but produce a 9-speed derailleur, so a SRAM derailleur takes care of shifting.
Rachel’s bike rolls on Stan’s EX3 rims (that MK4 sticker is inaccurate) which might be dwelling to 2.4″ Continental Kryptotal Fr tires, each of the DH casing SuperSoft Compound taste. With out tire inserts, Rachel runs 24 PSI within the rear and 23 PSI within the entrance.
Within the cockpit, we’ve got an aluminum FSA bar with a 40mm rise, lower all the way down to 780mm extensive. Lastly, purple Hayes Dominion A4 brakes clamp 200mm Galfer Disc Shark rotors, entrance and rear.
Rachel Atherton’s Wining Run POV at Lenzerheide
Right here’s a GoPro POV of Rachel Atherton carrying race successful tempo down the Lenzerheide World Cup DH Observe final weekend. Take pleasure in!
Good luck to Rachel and the remainder of the Continental Atherton race crew this coming weekend in Leogang. Will she maintain onto the chief’s jersey? Tell us your predictions within the feedback!
P.S. If Rachel wins this weekend, she is going to equal Ann Caroline Chausson’s file 41 World Cup DH victories.