Rachel Atherton dominates Women’s Downhill Mountain-biking. Her international titles include twice European Champion, twice World Champion and twice World Cup Champion.
She also holds four British national titles. Her trademark blend of femininity and toughness means that her appeal stretches beyond Mountain-biking, she has been Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the year and BBC Midlands Sportswoman of the year – awards usually reserved for more mainstream sports.
Rachel has been racing BMX since she was 8 year old and mountain-bikes since she was 11. It was clear from the outset that Rachel had something special, with Junior level wins wherever she raced. In 2008 when she was 20 years old everything seemed to come together in a golden year which saw her take both the World Cup Series and the World Championships but a freak accident with a truck put her out of racing for the entire 2009 season.
It was typical of Rachel to come back stronger and more committed than ever, starting the 2010 season with a World Cup Round 1 win at Maribor. Her shoulder injury continued to plague her but Rachel set about 2011 with vigour, placing 3rd or above in every World Cup Series with a silver in the World Championships as an added bonus.
Rachel seems to combine the physical and mental strength that characterises the entire family with a flair that is all her own. Despite missing Round 1 of the 2012 World Cup series at Pietermaritzburg she burst back on to the track at Val di Sole to win her race comfortably, despite a few small bobbles on the steep and brutal track.
Next in the series was Fort William – Rachel’s ongoing nemesis where she was crushed to be beaten in to 2nd place by Emmeline Ragot. But Rachel rallied and from the 4th round at Mount Saint Anne in Canada she was untouchable – MSA, Windham, Val d’Isere, Hafjell – enough for her to take the Series Win Overall and help secure Fastest Overall Team for GT Factory Racing.