Last weekend, Rachel Atherton made an impressive return to downhill mountain bike racing in Lenzerheide, earning her 40th World Cup win, it was also Atherton’s first race since placing sixth at the same track in 2022. Before that, the six times World Champ hadn’t been seen at a start gate since 2019 when she snapped her Achilles tendon in Les Gets. Her absence from racing was also extended when she gave birth to her daughter, Arna, in 2021.
After her fairytale win in Switzerland, she had said post-race that she would not race this coming weekend, however, the draw of the big race day atmosphere has proven too strong. With the winning feeling still fresh, she has has a change of heart and heads to Leogang, acknowledging it will be tough, and the pressure and weight of expectation after her win, is now even higher.
“I don’t want to be stupid and take risks; racing back to back is hard enough when you’re fully fit and strong, and I don’t want to get hurt. I have Arna to think about. I’m loving my time with the team, being a racer again, riding the AM.200.M, showing the world just how great this bike rides and seeing Andi and Charlie [her Continental Atherton teammates)] doing so well.
“We talked about it all day Sunday, weighing up the pros and cons, trying to decide why I’m doing this. Part of me wants to stop now, no more racing, my last race a win, that was always the dream, but I’m here I don’t want to stop. My mum has agreed to stay with us and look after Arna for another week so it is decided. I will go and race at Leogang and just see what happens. A small part of me wishes I didn’t win because I don’t want any more pressure, I don’t want people to expect me to win or to go well again, I just want to race and ride and be there!”
We can't wait to see Rachel and the rest of the Continental Atherton race this coming weekend in Leogang, and wish Rachel and the guys the best of luck. Seeing her ride in the leader’s jersey will be amazing and if she wins again, she will equal Ann Caroline Chausson’s record of 41 World Cup DH victories.
Check out this week's Bespoken Word column tomorrow as I fill in for Guy Kesteven and share some memorable MTB moments including the time I met and rode with Rachel Atherton at Dyfi Bike Park.