151: Rachel Atherton/Permission To Win

Rachel Atherton, Dyfi Bike Park, March 2021. Photo: Tozer

Yep, my guest this week is a proper icon, somebody who has achieved so much in their own discipline that they’ve crossed over into the mainstream realm as the personification of their chosen sport.

Take a look at Rachel Atherton’s record and you’ll see why. Six world champion titles. 6 UCI World Cup titles. 39 World Cup events. The ‘double double’ in 2015 and 2016 – which was, also, the only perfect season ever.

Photo: Tozer

It is an absolutely extraordinary record of achievement by an athlete who has achieved genuine greatness. And yet, as I discovered during our conversation, it has also come at quite a physical and mental cost, as the lengthy list of injuries and setbacks that have complemented her victories attest. Now, as Rachel prepares to become a Mum, we sat down to discuss her career so far and her plans for the future. I’ve met and chatted to Rachel a few times over the years and I’m always so impressed by her complete emotional honesty and levels of self-awareness. This is just a brilliantly revealing conversation with somebody at the absolute top of their field, full of peerless insights into the the nature of success, competitiveness and how to cope with failure.

I really enjoyed this one, and I have to thank Rachel for opening up fully and bringing the full range of her experience, insights and extremely impressive levels of self awareness to the conversation. Hope you enjoy it.

Listen to the episode below:

Connect With Rachel

Show Notes

  • The first interview
  • The Achilles injury
  • Motivation for rehab through lockdown
  • ‘…Motivation = results…’
  • History with injuries
  • Processing injury the right way
  • How an athlete’s self worth is linked to their sport
  • The leg injury coming in a complex year
  • Learning from experiences
  • ‘…at the end of the day, all I want to do is win races…’
  • How the racing mindset is carried over into everything in life
  • Learning from injury and learning from winning.
  • ‘…respecting my body for what it’s allowed me to do…’
  • Looking back at growing from the hardships and challenges
  • ‘…I don’t really believe in a positive mental attitude…’
  • Bringing the A game out of a fear of not performing
  • The emotional fall-out of not winning
  • Working with sports psychologist Trained Brain
  • Mental strength, visualisation and attitude
  • Having the evidence that you can win
  • Learning from 5 seasons ending in surgery
  • Keeping race diaries
  • The baby
  • Looking for peers when it comes to being a mother and a top tier racer
  • Opening up about pregnancy to be helpful for future racers
  • The pregnancy and taking a cautious approach to social media
  • Developing a thick skin and trying to be less bothered
  • The warm response from women about the pregnancy
  • Starting a YouTube channel
  • Being honest
  • Being a woman in a male dominated sport ‘…15% of my followers are female…’
  • The feminine identity in mountain biking
  • Sex sells
  • ‘…you’ve just got to be you…’
  • Social media, the pros and cons
  • Winning and loneliness
  • Real life, connections and relationships are what matter
  • ‘…it’s lonely at the top…’
  • Having happiness at home
  • The learning curve and having a single-minded focus on the way up
  • Free time only comes when you’re older
  • Burning out
  • Going after happiness
  • The goalposts have to change
  • Adapting the riding style to the pregnancy
  • ‘…it’s nice to slow down…’
  • COVID and current downtime
  • Feeling the body change
  • Launching Atherton Bikes with Gee and Dan
  • ‘…the bigger the mountain, the higher you have to fly over it…’
  • 3d printing and additive manufacturing
  • Doing it for yourself and doing it differently
  • Understanding business dynamics
  • Having specific strengths and roles in the business
  • Giving back to the mountain bike community
  • The fire is still inside
  • Maybe looking too break the 42 World Cup win record

Names Mentioned

  • James Stentiford
  • Jamie Edwards
  • Olly Davey
  • Gianluigi Buffon
  • Gee Atherton
  • Dan Atherton
  • Dan Brown
  • Anne-Caroline Chausson

Places Mentioned

  • Wales

Companies, Brands, Organisations Mentioned