Rachel Atherton hints at a Fort William Downhill MTB World Championship 2023 return

Rachel Atherton portrait image wearing Red Bull beanie
(Image credit: Red Bull Content Pool)

Rachel Atherton needs no introduction with a racing CV like no other, including six World Championship titles and six World Cup overall titles, that includes the perfect season in 2016 when she won all seven World Cup rounds. She has been out of racing since 2019 after suffering a snapped Achilles tendon injury while competing in the World Cup at Les Gets. Although she has been out of racing and the recovery from injury has been slow and at times painful, life has been far from uneventful with the birth of her daughter Arna, the launch of Atherton Bikes and helping along with brothers Dan and Gee in building the reputation of Dyfi Bike Park as the best downhill mountain bike park in the business.

Having previously met Rachel on a trip to Dyfi Bike Park where I had the absolute honor to ride her own Atherton AM.200 after some pedal confusion meant a last-minute swap to her very special super specced bike. I then proceeded to chase her AKA follow very slowly, and a little know rider by the name of Jim Monro down the Super Swooper at Dyfi in what was quite the day. Riding the six times World Champs' bike as she leads you down a trail at her own bike park was pretty epic, to say the least.

Rachel Atherton, Jim Monro and Paul Brett riding at Dyfi MTB park

Rachel leading myself and Jim Munro on the Super Swooper at Dyfi (Image credit: Moonhead Media)

I recently caught up for a chat with Rachel along with the now almost two-years-old Arna – who was more than happy to answer some of my questions on behalf of her mum as they enjoyed the sunshine at their home in Wales.

My first question was, what were her racing plans for 2023? 

"I am feeling strong and I want to be race ready for the 2023 World Championships in August at Fort William, I'm a long way off being where I want to be though, and I plan to do some World Cup rounds before, maybe a couple and see how that goes, but to be ready and competing at the World Champs would just be incredible, but I'm not putting to much pressure on myself. I've been training hard in the gym but it's a different pace of life these days with Arna, and I don't want to miss out on her development by being away racing constantly just now, it's important to be there for those special moments. I got the buzz for Fort William last year though, I love that place, the atmosphere is always amazing."

Rachel Atherton on a training run at Fort William downhill

Rachel got a taste for the Fort William buzz at last years World Cup (Image credit: Red Bull Content Pool)

I asked Rachel how she juggles training and being a mother?

"My family, of course, are great support, my mum is always around, although she recently had knee surgery so I was worried about her chasing Arna around while I was training. Gym work can be a real chore at times but it needs to be done, when you get older the aches and pains don't go as quickly as before. I always want to be out riding but I do watch videos of my winning rounds from World Cups and World Championships while in the gym, it helps to fire me up and motivate me, although it's maybe a bit geeky doing that." 

I disagreed with the geeky aspect, saying she'd very much earned the right to relive those winning days.

Rachel Atherton celebrating world championship win

Viewing winning moments while training is a big motivation for Rachel (Image credit: Getty Images)

Going back to the subject of riding I asked Rachel about the all-new Atherton AM.170 that was about to launch.

"This is Dan's baby, his dream bike, although he's not been able to ride much after breaking his wrist. Atherton Racing rider Charlie Hatton has been doing a great job stepping in with the promo riding shots for the 170."

"I've ridden the production version of this and it's an incredible machine, my partner Olly loves it, if he could only pick one of our bikes, this is the one for him. I'm a downhiller at heart of course, but I love trail riding, I think actually prefer riding the 170, I love it. The team as built something special and we've no shortage of tracks at Dyfi, so its been a lot of fun testing it out."

"We’re launching the AM.170 this week at The Cycle Show at Alexandra Palace in London, it's first public outing, and we can't wait to show it off. I'll be there with Gee and Dan, so we are all excited for that."

The new Atherton AM.170 bike being ridden at Dyfi Bike Park

The Atherton AM.170 is dream design of Dan Atherton (Image credit: Atherton Bikes)

On the subject of Dyfi, I asked what plans the team had for the future.

"Sadly Revolution Bike Park, Wales closed recently with diseased trees and we've seen lots of traffic and people coming to ride at Dfyi since then, it's just keeping up with expectations, it's never-ending at times. Developing the infrastructure, the demand for good toilets is always there! Dan and the dig crew have big plans, with a couple of new tracks coming, Dan never stops even with a broken wrist, he even claims the vibrations of the diggers are helping with his recovery."

I added that the best thing apart from the riding is the opportunity you may have to chat with either Dan, Gee or Rachel or even the likes of Santa Cruz Syndicate Racings Steve Peat, Laurie Greenland and Nina Hoffman who had recently been warming up for the season at Dyfi.

"I don't realize at times how much it means to people to get to chat with us or grab a selfie. We are always here riding and just take it as a home from home, but it's nice to have people wanting the opportunity to ask us about the bikes and the park or anything else."

Rachel Athertons rainbow jersey at Endura HQ, Scotland

Endura HQ proudly display an Atherton signed rainbow jersey at their HQ in Scotland (Image credit: Paul Brett)

I also mentioned my recent trip to Endura and seeing her signed rainbow jersey on the wall there.

"I actually forgot that I'd sent that and I saw your social post on Instagram, it was nice to see that jersey, it's another motivational boost to see that Endura are proud to still show it off. The Endura team looks after us very well, and our 2023 season kit is looking stunning."

At that, I thanked Rachel for her and little miss chatterbox herself, Arna's time, who excitedly said bye-bye, and bye again. You can catch up with all things Atherton this weekend at the Cycle Show from 21st-23rd April at Alexandra Palace, with more information on tickets at cycleshow.co.uk

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Based in Edinburgh, 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