Friday Apr 11, 2014

INTERVIEW: Rachel Atherton still starving for World Cup downhill success

Rachel Atherton may have won both the UCI World Championships and the World Cup title last year but her appetite for success is still growing ahead of the new season.

The Welsh rider will begin her World Cup series defence when the first event on the 2014 circuit gets underway in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa this weekend.

And, with the action kicking off on Friday 11th April, Atherton insists she can still improve on the 2013 season, in which she topped the podium at four of the six world cup races. 

“I’m still hungry for more,” she said. “I want to defend both of those titles. We’ve had such an intense winter’s training and I’m feeling strong.

“You can always top last season’s results. I missed out on two rounds and I crashed at Mont Sainte-Anne.

“When you win, everyone else chases you. The more I win, the faster everyone else gets, and I want to keep winning, so I must stay fast!”

Atherton’s competitors will certainly have to be quick if they are to knock the 26-year-old off the top spot this year. Her four wins on last year’s World Cup circuit took her grand total to 19 victories – a stat which makes her the most awarded British mountain biker in history.

It was also no surprise the world number one topped the overall standings in the 2013 World Cup after she dominated the 2012 circuit, winning five of the six races and coming second in the other.

But Atherton is fully aware that this season will be one of the most competitive ever and there are a host of talented riders standing between her and a third-straight World Cup title.

“I think this season is going to see the fastest women’s times ever,” she said.

“(Emmeline) Ragot is so fast, and fearless – she has great skills. I love watching Pompom (Myriam Nicole) ride because she’s probably technically the best of all.

“Manon (Carpenter) will be fast, Tracey Hannah is very dangerous in the dry, and Florian Pugin is very, very fast so to win this year I’ll have to go faster than I did last!”

Off the downhill course Atherton has also been picking up trophies. She has been awarded Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the Year and started 2014 by winning the inaugural BT Sport Action Woman of the Year.

But she isn’t stopping there. By continuing her remarkable run of success on the bike she hopes to bring downhill mountain biking the attention it deserves – and inspire other young women to give it a go.

“I can only hope to lead by example,” she added.

“I want to show that racing mountain bikes can give you a confidence that nothing else can match and that’s really appealing.”

The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill in Pietermaritzburg begins with qualifying on Friday 11th April before the finals on Saturday. In 2014 there are seven races in seven countries, covering four continents. 

Click here for our full preview of the 2014 downhill World Cup season.


Channels: Mountain Bike, MX