Cycling Weekly is counting down the top 30 British Riders of the Year thoughout December.
NUMBER 5: RACHEL ATHERTON
Downhill mountain bike world champion
It is hard to think of a rider who dominated their particular discipline more completely than Rachel Atherton did the downhill scene in 2013.
The 25 year old from Salisbury has two brothers – Gee and Dan – who are both world-class downhill riders. This year, the bragging rights belong to Rachel, after she won the World Championship title for the second time in her career and the World Cup series for a third time.
Atherton began her defence of the World Cup crown she won in 2012 by qualifying fastest in the opening round at Fort William in Scotland, before defeating fellow British rider Manon Carpenter by 10 seconds. In downhilling terms, that is the equivalent of a country mile.
She followed that by winning in Val di Sole, Italy, the scene of her first World Championship win in 2008, then beat Carpenter again in Vallnord, although it was very close this time.
The only round where Atherton was below par was Mont Sainte Anne in Canada, where she was 12th, but she bounced back to win in Hafjell, Norway, before clinching the overall World Cup title by finishing second in Leogang.
However, it is at the Worlds where reputations are forged. This year, the Worlds were held in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, one of the toughest and least forgiving courses on the circuit. Atherton had never competed there, having always missed the World Cup rounds for one reason or another.
But that possible disadvantage counted for nothing. When defending world champion Morgane Charre of France could set only the sixth best time after a good start, it began to look like the course would suit Atherton’s style perfectly.
The course started with a technical section but the middle part was all about being able to pedal and keep the momentum high before a string of jumps in the final third. Technical ability was required for the start, then strength and endurance for the end. Both qualities were necessary and so Atherton’s all-round style looked to favour her.
A crash for Carpenter opened the door, and although Emmeline Ragot of France briefly set the fastest time, Atherton destroyed it immediately afterwards.
The time gap at the line was 8.6 seconds – another emphatic victory for the British rider.
For the second time in her career, Atherton completed the grand slam of World Championship and World Cup titles in the same season.
British Riders of the Year 2013: Related links