From dreams to reality – Charlie Hatton's extraordinary rise to the top of Downhill MTB Racing

Charlie Hatton looking at his new rainbow jersey
Hatton's new rainbow jersey from Endura (Image credit: Atherton Racing)

The newly-crowned UCI Downhill MTB World Champion Charlie Hatton produced the ride of his life to take the rainbow jersey on the legendary Fort William downhill track just a few weeks ago. Having never finished higher than seventh place in World Cup events the Atherton Racing rider from the Forest of Dean feels he's almost skipped a few steps in his downhill mountain bike racing career.

With the dust settled Hatton has had time to take in his momentous achievement and he recently caught up with the Atherton Racing kit manufacturers and makers of his brand new rainbow jersey at Endura for a chat about his Worlds win, and his plans for the rest of the season.

Charlie Hatton riding during his world championship winning run

Charlie has been coming to Fort William since his early teens (Image credit: Moonhead Media)

Charlie, firstly congratulations on your amazing win. I'd love to hear more about your mentality going into the World Champs race day, did you feel confident? 

After the Fort William UK Nationals, I was feeling good, it’s probably my favorite track, I've been coming to Fort 'Bill since I was like 13 or 14, so I was excited for the Worlds. I’d had a really good two weeks of training so physically I felt strong, and I was feeling really good on the bike but come race day I always really struggle to eat breakfast, I try to force as much as I can but one poached egg on toast was all I could manage. As soon as I got to the pits, I felt a lot better, I was pretty calm really. There’s always a great atmosphere in the pits, all the mechanics are pretty funny. I was pretty happy to see the rain, I think all the British riders were. I know it rains in other countries but it’s just not the same. It's definitely in my comfort zone.

Did your race go to plan? 

Yeah, the race went fully to plan, I qualified in sixth the day before so knew I was in good form, but still thought taking the title was a dream. The forecast was heavy rain so my mechanic Ben and I were fully prepared for it, we did some wet weather adjustments to the bike like a long mudguard, and covers for the brakes to stop the oily peaty water getting in. My good friend Joe Breeden was reporting up from the woods and as the track got crazier and crazier, I had a bit more idea of what I was going into. It was all about just hitting the lines perfect but obviously that was made super difficult with the weather conditions, it's a bit of a dream come true to win at Fort William, I never thought I could achieve it, to step it up, I've almost skipped a few steps and gone straight to World Champion so yeah, it's crazy.

Charlie Hatton riding at World Champs 2023

Hatton is feeling inspired for the remainder of the season (Image credit: Moonhead Media)

How did you feel about the weather? 

The conditions for the finals were much different to qualifiers and practice, It was horrendous rain, really, really tough, but I just decided to ride like it was dry. To be honest I was so happy when the rain came down, Andi and I (teammate Andreas Kolb) both were. I left the pits with a huge smile on my face. I’m so used to riding in the rain and the mud and I’m so confident on the Atherton bike, I almost got to within a second of Loic Bruni’s dry qualifying time, so I was stoked with that. The team have done so much work on frame compliance that the bike tracks the trail and is so stable and the Continental Kryptotal tires are spot on, so I just went for it. 

What does the rest of your season look like? 

We’ve got almost two weeks break then we head to Andorra for the next round of the World Cup Series and I’m currently in 17th overall (after a crash in at Val di Sole) and Andi is in 4th, so I'm aiming to move up, and wearing the rainbow jersey should inspire me. Andi is first in the overall UCI rankings and I’m 6th, so I’m hoping to move up a few places in that also, I’m feeling pretty good. After Andorra we’ve got two rounds in France at Les Gets and Loudenvielle then Snowshoe in the US and Mont St Anne in Canada. We race into October for the first time. It's a pretty long season, but I have the opportunity to wear the rainbow jersey longer, so that's pretty cool, I can't wait.

Close up on the UCI downhill winners medal

Charlie will wear the rainbow jersey for the rest of the world cup season (Image credit: Moonhead Media)

What does downtime look like for you? 

Lots of riding my trials bike, and my enduro bike, and hanging out with my girlfriend Cara. I’m heading home to the family for a few days chilling now. It’ll be fab to have friends and family around and get back to an everyday schedule for a while. 

What's the most important thing you find in training that helps on your bike?

I’d probably say riding, time on the bike, and (unless it’s just a fun lap which is important) trying to structure every ride with an objective for the day, for example, to do full runs or to test something in particular, always try to have a goal when you ride. I’ve been riding a good variety of tracks too, of course, Dyfi Bike Park which is the Atherton Bikes base has everything from short runs to amazing 4-minute trails with over 400 meters of drop. I’ve been over to ride with Andi at Schladming which is one of the best places to train, it’s super-fast and sharpens your skills. 

Charlie Hatton and Andi Kolb with UCI medals

Charlie and Andi hope to have a strong end to the downhill season (Image credit: Moonhead Media)

With Endura making your rainbow jersey, what's your favorite piece of Endura gear?

How to choose? There are so many, but overall, it would have to be the Endura MT500 Burner onesie. It's so good for winter riding, you can ride all day and still be dry underneath. But to be fair none of the MT500 kit is bad. Great materials, a really good fit. I like the clip shoes too, they are super lightweight and really easy to set up. From the first ride they felt good and ready to go, sometimes shoes take a while to bed in, so yeah, these shoes are a hit for me. 

Charlie Hatton and the Atherton Racing team celebrating

The entire Atherton racing team are still on a high  (Image credit: Moonhead Media)

Everyone caught the moment with your Dad on TV after the race, is your dad your biggest cheerleader? What’s the connection between your family and your bike? 

My dad Les is the best! My whole family has been a huge encouragement and help to me, even when it might not have looked much like it from the outside – I’m the youngest of three boys, so you can imagine, we’d dig jumps in the woods then they’d use me as the crash test dummy. When I was about eight or nine, I got such a dead leg that I couldn’t get up, they just left me. My mum, Sharon, had to come searching and carry me home. When I had no–one to ride with my mum would sit for hours at the bottom of the tracks waiting for me. Then in my first year of World Cups, Dad and I drove to all the European races together. We’d pull up next to all these massive pits in our Les Hatton builder’s van. 

How is your coach feeling? and how is the team feeling? 

Alan Milway is my coach, he’s a pretty scientific guy. I think he’s pretty proud, he did a cool Instagram post saying I was a great ambassador for the sport, so I’ll take that. I’m not sure that the Continental Atherton downhill racing team have come down from their high either. For Andi and I to take first and second at the worlds is huge for the team and Atherton Bikes as a brand . I saw the replay where Andi crosses the line and he sees me on the hot seat. He's so happy for me and that’s the kind of generous guy he is. We’ve talked for years about getting the 1, 2. Like kind of joking, kind of not and well it couldn’t have happened more perfectly... 

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.

Current rides: Marin Alpine Trail 2, Ribble 725, Cube Stereo 160

Height: 175cm