Trek's Gee Atherton is looking to gain some momentum after an early season injury took some of the wind out of his sails, and he's hoping to do that here in Vallnord aboard his 29'' wheeled Trek Session 9.9. If you swear you remember seeing the British rider on a 27.5'' wheeled bike earlier this year, you'd be right. But it's back to big wheels for Gee. ''It's a quite difficult one. As you can see, people are changing back and forth. We started with 27.5; that bike feels better, I guess. Gee can probably ride it, but it's a hard one to say. The 29er is probably faster,'' Gee's mechanic, Pete “Polish” Michaliszyn, explained to Pinkbike's Ross Bell.
''So even though we had a pretty average season last year, and obviously Gee injured himself on the 29er as well, so that probably played a part in deciding what bike we were going to start the season on. But looking at the results, and we put a little bit more time into the 29er now, it is a faster bike. And we are all about going fast.''
At well over 6' tall and 83kg, Gee is one of the bigger, stronger guys on the circuit. He's on an extra-large Session 9.9 frame, and he prefers a 790mm wide handlebar combined with a 50mm stem - a relatively traditional setup. His suspension, however, is anything but. Up front, his Fox 49 is rocking the new Grip2 cartridge, and Pete said that his rider is about in the middle on the compression settings, runs 85 PSI, and a whopping eight volume spacers inside the air spring leg. That's mirrored on the Float X2 shock, with its compression set to the middle, 230 PSI, and the maximum amount of volume bands inside the air can. In other words, all the progression.
Gee's air-sprung setup works for his attacking style, Pete explained: "The grip from a coil-sprung shock is a little bit better, but an air spring holds you up a little bit better. It works for this bike a little bit better."
Atherton's Session stays largely the same throughout the season, too, with Pete saying that Gee isn't the kind of rider who makes a load of setup changes anymore. ''We used to change quite a lot, but now we try to keep it similar to just try and concentrate on the riding, really. We don't make massive changes,'' he told Pinkbike. But when things do get changed up, it's usually just a few clicks on the suspension, or perhaps a small alteration to his handlebar height.
In fact, Gee's Session is staying the same as it was in Val di Sole, taller than usual handlebar height included.
One thing that Gee and Pete have had to manage is Gee's hand injury. ''This weekend, we will probably be playing with the grip thickness, and maybe put a little put more padding on, just because Gee's hand isn't at 100-percent,'' he said. ''We'll maybe soften the fork a tiny bit, just to get rid of the hard impacts, but he's just going to have to hold on.''
That's probably a bit of an over-simplification, but if there's anyone who can "just hold on,'' you know that it's Gee.