My Hero, the new regular which is best read with Dave Grohl singing softly in your head, is into week four. And we’re proud to present major mountain bike talent and twice World Champion Rachel Atherton on why her brother Dan has inspired her so
Photos Sven Martin
“When I think of who inspires me day to day, shows me the right way to live and the right way be a professional athlete and downhill racer, it is my brother, Dan Atherton. With World Cup wins and podiums, national titles, and now embarking on the fairly new discipline of Mountainbike Enduro racing, Dan Atherton is a racer who can hold his own, but he is more than that. Much more.
The thing about Dan – or Affy as everyone calls him – is that he does it all. He trains and races and gets the results of a professional mountainbiker, but at the same time, he rides and digs and builds stuff to ride just like he has always done, there is no label for Dan Atherton. He races the World Enduro series now, but he also rides dirt jumps on his hardtail, he rides HUGE jumps on his Downhill bike, he rides HUGE jumps on his BMX, he is amazing in the skatepark on the BMX, but the thing is, he isn’t just good at everything, he is AMAZING at everything.
He has been there for me throughout my whole career, I would follow him around when we were little trying to ride my bike after him, then he taught me how to race BMX. Later he taught me to ride a mountainbike and told me that I could be the best in the world, he had no hesitation, and to have someone believe in you that strongly from such a young age, well…. its pretty amazing.
As a school girl I would write all my English essays on Dan and racing, one paper was about how I won the World Championships and as I was standing on the podium I could see my brother Dan, how proud he was of me, how I had won the race for him to say thank you for everything, Dan was the reason I wanted to win.
The way that Dan lives his life is my inspiration, he does what he needs to do to be a racer, but at the heart of it all is his enjoyment for riding a bike, any bike, and that is amazing to see. He barely stops, and when he does, he doesn’t get stressed about the little things like I do, he just stops and switches off, and that teaches me a lot, to realise what is actually important, to see the bigger picture and to not get caught up in the little things that don’t matter. Dan says to me, “It is your choice, you can choose to live like this… or like this… you can choose to be happy and content and proud, or you can choose to live stressed and worried and pissed off.”
When we moved house with our Mum to North Wales when I was 14, Dan was like a man possessed, meeting all the farmers and land owners in the area, he built downhill mountainbike tracks like they were going out of fashion, he basically created a mountainbiking heaven and all 3 of us flourished as racers under his care. We lived on a rented old farm with hardly any money, but we had each other and we had bikes and we had the land, and for years that was enough it seemed, then in 2008 there was the highlight of our family racing, where we all won the World Cup in Andorra. 3 World Cup wins, 1 family.
Dan has crossed over to Enduro now and the World Enduro Series has a different calendar to the World Downhill Series and it is the first year in my career that Dan won’t be with me at the World Cups, but his advice and wisdom has taken on a new level. We text each other constantly when I am racing a World Cup, I bounce my fears and worries off him and he comes back with exactly the right amount of wisdom and joking. After I took my second World Cup win of the season this year, he said “I think you have qualified and proved yourself worthy to ride the Enduro loop that I have built in Llangynog now.”
Dan Atherton is my hero, brother or not, and if everyone could have a Dan Atherton, the world would be a better place and they would be better for it!”
Rachel is sponsored by GT Bicycles, one Industries, Red Bull, Mercedes Benz Vito Sport, Silverline Tools, Continental tyres, Shiomano, Fox racing Shox & Go Pro