Gee Atherton on Red Bull Rampage: interview part 1

As Gee's Four by Three film hits screens, find out what drives him to push his riding to the limit

Gee Atherton at Red Bull Rampage in 2012
Gee Atherton in shades at Red Bull Rampage 2012© Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

You’re obviously very successful as a downhill rider – what is that drives you to test that and take part in things like Rampage, which are so much more dangerous?
It gives me that opportunity, like you say, to push things a bit further. When you’re racing World Cups each season, everything is very calculated, and I think that I felt with things like Rampage you can get a lot more creative and push yourself on, and I love that feeling of being at an event knowing the only way I’m going to get through this is using every ounce of skill and knowledge about riding that I have.

How do you decide when you get there where to ride, when it’s such a huge expanse – are there parts where you say, "I definitely want to ride that… or avoid that?"
The way I approach it is playing to my strengths, because I’m not a freerider – that’s not my style of event, so there’s no point in me trying to keep up with those guys and doing tricks and whatnot, so I’m going to go fast and ride the big stuff. The tricky thing is when you arrive on the first day, everything looks huge and so intimidating – so you can start building a line that looks huge on the Monday, but by the Wednesday or the Thursday, you’ve got used to it, everything starts to look a bit smaller and you find your lines that little bit more timid than you wanted. So you really have to take that into account when you’re scoping out that first line.

The crash was just an example of how a small mistake at Rampage can cost you so much

Is there a high point for you, or is it a more general love of the event that has you hooked?
The high point in my line was the gap that I crashed on and unfortunately that was my first try, so I didn’t actually get to ride it, but I think if I’d ridden that out it would have been a pretty cool line. That’s how Rampage is, you spend the whole week building and then crash, and you don’t even get to ride it. It’s pretty harsh.

Do you get scared riding these lines and is that part of what spurs you on?
Well, it’s not so much getting scared while you’re riding, it’s the bit before. You’ll find the line the first few days and you build it all week, and in your mind you know you’re riding it at the end of the week and you’re like, "Is it too big? Is it big enough? Am I going to be able to do it?" You really have to just have that belief in yourself, that you know you can ride it – you know you can do well and you’ve just got to keep that in mind.

Obviously you had a bad crash out there, how was it when it happened?
I’d had a crash earlier in the week and damaged my ankle, so I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to ride or not. Then I managed to ride on the Saturday so I was stoked I was out there again, but when I had the second crash, it was just… I don’t know. I was feeling good and on top of everything. It was just an example of how a small mistake at Rampage can cost you so much…

Find out what happened after Gee’s crash by reading part 2 of Gemma Lacey’s interview with Gee tomorrow on redbull.com/bike, and watch the new film on our special Four by Three page.

redbull.com/fourbythree