Rachel Atherton: British mountain biker goes for fifth downhill World Championship title
Rachel Atherton retains her 4 world champion rainbow jerseys in a birdcage.
No hen has ever lived within the cage; Atherton says she “simply actually likes birdcages”.
“I did not wish to body my jerseys or grasp them on the wall,” she says. “I like to have the ability to take them out, contact them and bear in mind these races.”
The cage door could also be opening as soon as once more this month, with the 30-year-old Briton trying to win World Championship quantity 5.
Victory in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on Sunday would make her probably the most adorned world champion in downhill mountain bike historical past.
However Atherton, who gained a document sixth World Cup title in August, is effectively conscious of the perilous nature of the race that awaits her, calling it a “death-or-glory” scenario.
“Most individuals both win or crash,” she tells BBC Sport. “No-one actually cares about second place.”
‘I am bodily sick on race day’
Atherton really introduced herself on the downhill scene in 2008, when she gained her first World Championship and World Cup titles, and has dominated the game for a decade.
However even the easiest are struck down by nerves, which Atherton says have gotten worse as time has handed – with a very drastic flip lately.
“I am bodily sick a minimum of a few instances on race day,” she says. “It is solely the previous two or three years that it has occurred.
“I believe it is my physique’s approach of preparing, I am going into battle, so it is that combat or flight mode.
“My older brother Gee – he additionally races and is a a number of world champion – began being bodily sick and I assume I’ve at all times needed to do what my brothers do, so now I do it as effectively!”
Atherton places her nerves right down to the rising strain she places on herself, such is her expectation of victory.
“I anticipate rather a lot from myself, and that, over time, has turn into increasingly more,” she says.
“The extra accidents you get, the extra you turn into conscious of the implications, so I believe that provides as much as this one large ball of strain.”
‘I’ve at all times felt a bit battered’
As is to be anticipated given the character of the game, Atherton has had her fair proportion of accidents, together with damaged wrists and collarbones, and has even needed to have bone grafts.
In 2009 she wanted a nerve graft after a collision with a pick-up truck in California left her with a dislocated shoulder, which severed a nerve.
Atherton is the oldest rider within the area, and her checklist of accidents is one thing she says she is changing into “extra conscious of” because the years go.
“I do discover the accidents now. I had some large accidents comparatively younger and I’ve carried them all through my profession, so it is nothing new,” she says.
“I’ve at all times felt a bit wrecked and a bit battered. It does take barely longer to get better, it takes barely longer to heat up within the mornings, however that is counteracted with the expertise I’ve received from racing for thus lengthy.”
Atherton says she has discovered to deal with the ever-increasing aches and pains.
“You’ll be able to carry accidents endlessly and it’s a must to take care of that,” she provides.
“I discover methods of racing and driving that imply I can nonetheless acknowledge that I’m nervous. I experience maybe a extra calculated race now, and over time that appears to have paid off.”
‘That one race meaning a lot’
Atherton will go into this week’s Mountain Bike World Championships, which begin on Wednesday, in good kind after an “emotional” World Cup remaining triumph in La Bresse, France, in August.
She gained three rounds of this 12 months’s World Cup earlier than successful the general title for a sixth time – a document feat she says is “very particular”.
“Trying again, I did not actually realize it was going to be an historic quantity six – no-one had ever executed that earlier than,” she says.
“It is an achievement that has spanned 10 years, from after I gained my first World Cup title in 2008.
“After I take into consideration that, with all of the accidents I’ve had in between, it is unimaginable actually. I by no means set out with that objective in thoughts as a child.”
Consideration shortly switched to the problem forward in Switzerland and, with downhill not a part of the Olympic mountain bike programme, Atherton describes the World Championships as “our Olympic remaining”.
“It is bizarre to have one race meaning a lot,” she says. “You win the jersey and the stripes and there may be this large hype surrounding it.
“The entire 12 months provides as much as the World Cup title, after which this one race, one afternoon, is large.”