Interview: Rachel Atherton's balanced attitude

Rachel Atherton reveals that a more balanced attitude towards racing is paying dividends this season
Rachel Atherton
Rachel's run © Sven Martin 2012
By Richard Cunynghame

Rachel's last few years have been hampered by injuries but 2012 saw her start the season well with a win and a second place at UCI events at Val Di Sole and Fort William. She talked to Richard Cunynghame about the season so far following that second place at Fort William.

At the end of 2011 I had another shoulder operation. My progress in rehab over the winter was a little bit behind what I expected.

So I decided to miss the first World Cup [South Africa], which was really early on in the year, in favour of making a one hundred percent recovery and starting the season strong. Obviously it sucks for the series but you’ve got to think of the long term.

I was quite nervous and unsure how I was going to fair against the other girls at Val Di Sole [Italy], which was my first World Cup. I’d only done a couple of races in the run up to it and I’d had a couple of good results so I definitely felt confident and I knew that if I rode the track like I could, then I could have a good result but I was still really surprised and absolutely ecstatic to win there. It was one of the best wins I’ve ever had and it filled me with confidence that I’d made the right decisions over winter.

Rachel Atherton on the podium at Val Di Sole © Sven Martin 2012

Over the years it’s got more of a prestige about winning it. To start with I wasn’t bothered but now it is something that I want to do and I’m going to have to do it to be satisfied. I think it’s a good track to improve on because there’s so many things you need to be, to be good there. I can definitely go away and learn from every race and train a little differently for next year.

If I ride and race like I know I can for the rest of the year then I can take the overall but it’s gonna be tough

This year qualifying was on a track that was dry, sunny, dusty and really fast and I feel comfortable on tracks, especially at Fort William, when it’s like that. Then race day came around and it poured with rain; it was muddy and it was pretty gnarly and I had a massive crash just before my finals in practice.

So instead of preparing for the race emotionally, I was lay on the bench with my physio; I was crying and in a bit of pain. It wasn’t the best preparation and that definitely affected me going into the finals.

Rachel Atherton
Rachel Atherton prepares for her Fort William run © Sven Martin 2012

I’m second now overall in the series, having missed the first World Cup that’s pretty cool. If I ride and race like I know I can for the rest of the year then I can take the overall but it’s gonna be tough, the races are so close together now and my body is definitely feeling it already so it’s gonna be hard work.

Nowadays I would definitely rather be consistent and stay safe than have a couple of wins but in between those wins have some massive crashes or something.

No matter what, I definitely go into every race wanting to win, I think it’s just being calculated, you have to ride within your limits so you can finish the race but at the same time you have to ride on the edge if you want to win so it’s a fine balance to find and I’ll keep searching.