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Downhill with the Athertons: the Atherton Racing Experience Day at Antur Stiniog

What is it like to ride DH with the resources of MTB super-team Atherton Racing? Lucy Bulkeley reports.

Rachel with Physio Darren Roberts and Atherton Racing teammate Taylor Vernon

Imagine having the chance to experience the vast resources that go into making Atherton Racing the fastest MTB team on the planet? The mechanics, the physios, the support team, the whole entourage, not to mention meeting World Champ Rachel Atherton herself.

That’s the opportunity that Total Women’s Cycling reader Lucy Bulkely got when she won our Atherton Racing Experience Day Competition. Here’s her report from the day, and wow it sounds amazing.

I first tried riding MTB Downhill last September, and I’ve been hooked ever since, and the Athertons have had a massive influence on me with what they’ve achieved between the three of them.

After entering the competition to win a place on the Atherton Experience Day about five times, it took me while to believe what I was reading when I got the email to say I’d won! Then I needed to decide who to take with me, and it could only be my friend Anna who got me into downhill in the first place.

Anna and her partner James took me riding at Farmer John’s Bike Park last August. Anna let me try her downhill bike and it was the best feeling ever! Since then I’ve got my own DH bike, kept riding, and met some amazing people along the way. I’ve never loved a sport as much as I love downhill, the adrenalin rush is just so addictive. So I was so excited to have the chance to meet the Atherton Racing team, and maybe get a few pointers.

Lucy and Anna, getting ready to ride

The day started off at around 10.45 with uplifts at the Antur Stiniog DH trail centre in Wales. Groups of riders went up with members of Atherton Racing, but unfortunately Rachel and Dan were injured and couldn’t ride – heal up soon guys!

I started off on a track called Wild Cart and then moved onto to the ominously named Black Powder. I thought I’d better get some practice in for the Antur DH Fest in July which I’ll be riding at. I only ended up doing it twice after crashing off both times on the drop at the top.

Your bike wants to go downhill, we’re the only ones that are stopping it.

Coming off in front of Dan Atherton was probably the most embarrassing thing I’ve done on my bike! After managing to get a successful ride down the Black Powder run with rubber side down it was time for lunch, and I think everyone was ready for a break and some Red Bull.

The afternoon meant more riding with the team and for all of the girl riders there was a Master Class with Rachel herself!

Rachel’s MTB Master Class

‘Your bike wants to go downhill, you’re the only one that is stopping it.’

This was an amazing opportunity and all the girl riders seemed to benefit from Rachel’s help. I absorbed all Rachel’s advice like a sponge! Some of Rachel’s pointers:

1. Ride at one pace down the track rather than going flat out and then braking hard. Consistent speed pays off, rather than stopping and starting.

2. On steep corners don’t have your weight right back because if the front wheel hits anything you’re more likely to lose control of the bike. This is because the front wheel isn’t weighted and therefore doesn’t have grip. Bringing your weight more central in general when you’re riding also helps  with control. ‘Bum back’ isn’t always best!

3. Brake before features like rock gardens to control your speed, then let go and just let your bike ride through them.

4. Have a strong position with your arms and legs on the bike. This helps you react to what your bike is doing. With cornering it helps to stop your arms or legs ‘giving in’ so you can carry more speed through them. Make sure there’s space between you and the bike too.

So what were my highlights from the day? Well, the gorgeous sunny weather for a start; being from Wales I know how rare the sunshine is. Of course the master class with Rachel, and meeting all the Atherton Racing team.

Since I rode at Antur Stiniog, it’s become my favourite place to ride. The set up is great, with fast and rocky tracks for all abilities, quick uplifts and a café. The perfect place to hold the Atherton Racing Experience Day.

So finally I’d just like to thank Antur Stiniog and Atherton Racing for holding the day! It’s only fuelled my fire to start racing this summer and carry on enjoying a very addictive sport. Thank you!

With thanks to Atherton Racing, Antur Stiniog DH Trails, Harris and Ross Physiotherapists, Silverline Tools and many more!

Like this? Check out these articles!

Feeling nervous on track? Check out Rachel Atherton’s Tips for Conquering Your Fear.

In the market for an awesome new bike? Check out our guide to 6 of the Best Full Suspension MTB’s.

Looking for an event to try yourself? Add the Steel City DH Race to your calender.

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