Illness Jeopardises Rachel Atherton’s World Cup Hopes

Can Rachel Atherton battle through illness to take her second win at Fort William?

Image copyright Phil Hall.

Rachel Atherton, the defending Fort William World Cup winner, spoke to us on the eve of the UCI MTB Downhill final in Scotland. Last year, Rachel took a long-awaited first place here. This year, her season has started badly with a viral infection that knocked her for six.

With Manon Carpenter hot on her heels, and Emmeline Ragot taking the fastest time in timed training sessions, can Rachel take the win this year or will Carpenter or Ragot take the victory.

You had a shaky start to the season with illness. Can you tell us about that?

It’s not been an ideal start at all. I was sick in South Africa and Australia, and I’m not gonna lie, since Australia I’ve not done a thing. I went to the doctor and he said I need to give my body complete and total rest for recovery.

For four or five weeks now I haven’t done any training or riding at all. It’s not ideal coming into a World Cup.

I haven’t made a big deal out of it – everyone thinks I’m fully fit and recovered but I’ve lost a lot of muscle mass and I’ve lost a lot of fitness. I think the season is going to be a bit of a battle. But it happens.

Despite the illness, you took the win in Cairns. How did you do it?

I think at that point I still had my physical strength to get me through. Although I was sick, for those two days I battled through it. But when we got home and I was written off again. Maybe the years of training and racing have finally caught up with me and I need to take a rest.

For four or five weeks now I haven’t done any training or riding at all. It’s not ideal coming into a World Cup.

Looking forward to the season ahead, are there any rounds you are particularly looking forward to?

I really like the track in Windham in America, I always got on well there. The scenery and everything is amazing, it reminds me a little of living back home in wales.

Then Norway has an awesome track. It’s an amazing country and of course it’s a bit special because it’s the World Champs. I’m excited about that – that might be my saving grace!

Back to Fort William. How are you finding the track?

It’s good, really good fun. It’s the first time I’ve ridden the Fort William track on the bigger 27.5 inch wheels. On my first run down I was like ‘oh my god! It’s so fast! But the problem with going fast is that you’ve gotta go faster and faster. It’s fun, but also as hard as it ever was.

What are your aims for the finals at Fort William on Sunday?

They were to come in and win it again. But now I literally have no idea what’s going to happen, because I’ve done nothing for five weeks, no preparation at all. So I don’t know if I’ll even make podium.

Manon has been doing awesome, Emmeline Ragot is up there as well. It’s always good to have people pushing you so you don’t get complacent that you can just cruise to a win. No-one wants to win if it’s easy. You want a good challenge. I’m glad that they are going for it.


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