Rachel Atherton Joins British Cycling's MTB Gravity Commission

Jan 30, 2017
by Pinkbike Staff  
As if Rachel Atherton doesn't already do enough for the sport of mountain biking, and more specifically, downhill racing, she's gone and stepped it up another notch. The current World Cup Champion and World Champion, who also added a perfect season to her accolades in 2016, has just taken on a role with British Cycling on the MTB Gravity Commission. The commission provides expert advice and support to the organization's board, further making sure that members are protected and that the sport is able to grow.

Fighting some back pain all week Rachel dug deep and got her perfect season. 7 wins out of 7 races.

bigquotesI love my sport and I want to ensure that it is protected and nurtured so that the discipline can continue to flourish. It's really important to make sure that the commission has a mix of people working in the sport and I will be putting forward lots of ideas. I'm really passionate about getting new people, especially more women, into the sport so this will also be a focus for me. – Rachel Atherton

Get the full announcement on Rachel's position with British Cycling, here.
Catch the minutes from previous meetings here.


73 Comments

  • + 112
 wait a second british cycling finally figured out women and downhill mountain biking exists
  • + 29
 Glad DH is getting some top level input finally. Now all we need is a bit more of a Scottish out look on rights to roam.
  • + 2
 Who would've known, right?
  • + 8
 way ahead of the US organizations - can't image why GB continues to field tons of world class talent...
  • + 26
 Probably worth noting that Tracy Moseley has previously been on this council for a while, the commission seems a pretty well balanced group!
  • + 23
 @paulhaysom: how dare you correct the pinkbike mob- we have pitchforks, you know.
  • + 1
 @paulhaysom: it was just a bit of sarcasm over the crap with british cycling and the sexism accusations, and that they seem to prefer road and track cycling.
  • + 1
 She probably only got picked because of her brothers.
  • + 30
 Good news for British cycling!
  • + 18
 Doesn't quite make up for the sports personality of the year snub. Fucking Andy Murray!!
  • + 23
 Aye getting to number 1 in men's tennis is a lot easier than getting to number 1 in women's DH. F*cking Andy Murray indeed. Rachel was robbed.
  • + 1
 Well said Sir.
  • + 17
 Prior to Murray, the last British world number 1 in tennis was Perry in 1936. That is longer than mountain biking in general.
  • + 3
 @hollowing2000: The Skinhead clothing designer?
  • + 7
 @km79: I'm not saying she should have won, just an acknowledgment of a perfect season and complete dominance at the top of a sport without any recognition from the mainstream media is an absolute joke!
  • + 7
 @Onefingerpress: And winning the BT Action Woman of the Year isn't recognition? Winning SPOTY is about more than results- the word 'Personality' should be a dead giveaway. Rachels treatment of Claudio Calouri earlier this year left a bitter taste in many people's mouths. Rachel's an amazing athlete, and I personally think this announcement is a good step, for BC and her to help grow the sport. But she let herself down where SPOTY is concerned. She could have handled the situation with Claudio better, afterall he did very little wrong and was prompt to offer to make amends. She acted spoiled quite frankly, although she does seem to have learned since then.
  • + 5
 @Deuce-DeuceAndAHalf: Andy Murray's 'personality' is hardly worthy.
  • + 2
 @teamkr: if it was truly about personality Murray certainly wouldn't win it, look over the last few years the only one with a bit of charisma is mark cavendish. You have to go back to 05 to get "Freddy" flintoff, who as much as he is a bellend he has a big personalityIt's about winning and not many of them can top a perfect season.
  • + 1
 @km79: That's just untrue.
  • + 3
 @teamkr: There is far more to a person's personality than how entertaining they are on tv. And doubly so for athletes; How they compete will almost always tell you more about their personality than any interview will tell you. Murray may not set the World on fire with every response or speech he gives but he is tough as nails on court and that's inspiring. Rachel's perfect season is remarkable but she let herself and her sport down in how she handled Claudio's comments and subsequently refused to accept his apology.
  • + 1
 @km79: Andy Murray did so without losing a match for a year and a half? Rachel's achievement was unprecedented. Whereas many other Tennis players have had a decent season and become number 1.
  • + 2
 @teamkr: I know him, he is very funny off court.
  • + 3
 @Onefingerpress: Cavendish, dull
  • + 2
 @Garpur44: compare the competition they both had then take a look at the size of the audience of both sports. Who do you think created the bigger impact with the viewing public?
  • + 5
 @Garpur44:
Rachel did a great job, but there are more examples of 'unprecedented' achievements in female cycling. In 2012 Marianne Vos was WC road cycling, Olymic champion road cycling, WC cyclo cross and won the Giro d'Italia. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot was WC road cycling, WC MTB XC and WC cyclocross at one time in 2015. Jeannie Longo was for instance WC time trial when she was well in her forties. These achievements are just unthinkable in male cycling. So I think you have to be realistic when you compare these performances and realize that the level of competition does have something to do with it.
  • + 2
 Wouldn't mind seeing her on Question of Sport, she scrubs up pretty well
  • + 1
 @john260164: she may bring her Helmet
  • + 1
 @cvoc: Unthinkable due to general lack of competition, relatively.
  • + 4
 @km79: I totally agree with you, but what i don't agree with is the level of media attention all other forms of cycling get in the UK, even the velodrome gets lots of attention, but mountain biking and bmx get none at all, and we do so well in those areas even without any of their support, and without any dodgy doping grey areas. If mountain biking was given a chance in the UK it would flourish, but I think British Cycling is run by roadies who think road racing is the be all and end all, sod the other categories, i can't think of any other reason why they wouldn't support it more.
  • + 1
 @kipvr: Nothing puts me to sleep like track cycling, if we were rubbish you wouldn't here a thing about it.
  • + 2
 @Deuce-DeuceAndAHalf:

Rob asked why Rachel is so much more dominant than the other ladies, and Claudio replied saying it's probably because she rode with her brothers from a young age.
Yes, Claudio is correct in saying that will have helped her, of course it would have. We all know Claudio is a nice dude who meant no harm by that comment as well.

But you surely can see why she reacted in slight ill-taste. Day in day out she busts her ass off in the gym and training in general to be the best she can be, and she gets a reply from Claudio saying her success is largely down to ANOTHER PERSON.
That is why she was pissed. And personally I understand that.
  • + 2
 @Jack-McLovin: I can understand her frustration too but she handled it terribly. First by calling Claudio out on Instagram instead of having a quiet word, and then refusing to accept his sincere apology and his offer to ride a course preview with him to show the matter was settled.
Claudio is a nice dude who meant no harm by the comment but she deemed it necessary to publicly humiliate him.
  • + 1
 @cvoc: But she wasn't nominated so it's really a moot point
  • + 14
 Oh how I wish US Cycling would take notes what the UK doing with MTB.
  • + 28
 US Cycling would probably ban anybody caught taking notes, for sure give them a fine for it.
  • + 4
 I don't think Missy would have the same level of respect on a board. Would be awesome, but maybe not.
  • + 19
 @T-Bot: Jill Kintner would be good for USA Cycling
  • + 1
 does USAC pay the UCI inscription fees for the PROGRT to offer UCI points so that the US riders can earn their way to WC? I think i remember reading that last year... if thats the case, its a really good start...
  • + 2
 @speedy38racer: yes she would.
  • + 7
 I quote "making sure that members are protected and that the sport is able to grow" Are we talking about the same British Cycling that refused to recognise Enduro?
  • + 4
 Rachel really is everywhere, she must have a pretty busy calendar - the Athertons seem to do more than maybe any other team out there, I can see why they would be in demand:
UCI WC DH
Crankworx
Hardline
Rampage (sometimes)
Fox Hunt
BDS
etc etc
  • + 5
 Doing something for an living usually means working every day, unless your an actor or rock star. Maybe that's why the Athertons are so successful?
  • + 3
 @McNubbin: True, although other teams and individuals generally don't appear to do anywhere near as much, with few exceptions - peaty, gwin to some extent, ur polygon, can't think of anyone else?
  • + 8
 That's a proper world class team management right there. The jobs more than just racing and product development. Giving back to the sports and peoples whom involved. Results can give you paychecks, but reputation for being profesional can give you extra miles in your careers. Props to their manager who can arrange such a busy agenda, cheers Brownie.
  • + 1
 @russthedog: No, I can't, but wouldn't it be great for the sport if others were able to commit at this level? I understand that some other sponsored riders may actually have day jobs to make ends meet, but the Athertons are setting a good example to follow for those that are 100% sponsored.
  • + 9
 Applause!
  • + 3
 One thing they could work on is always have equal prize winnings. It's antiquated to have events that pay the top male finishers more then the ladies.
  • - 2
 For most races women are lagging behind men in lap times. Same cash prize for a 10 second + "1st place"? hmm
  • + 11
 I disagree. There are about ten guys for every girl racing DH when I've looked at the results of events shown on PB recently. Let's talk parity when that's down to, say, three to one. And don't tell me an increase in prize money will encourage women to take up the sport. If you took up DH racing for the prize money you are doing it wrong.
  • + 9
 The purse for prizes are determined by viewers, sponsors, etc. not by what you have between your legs.

Paying women "equally" just because they are women is sexist. Taking money away from people who rightfully deserve it is immoral.

Does that athlete bring in views? Does that part of the race day bring enough audience and advertisement revenue?
  • + 17
 BDS has been giving equal prize money for a number of years now.
  • + 3
 @si-paton: I appreciate you're a busy individual but you're in a much better position to comment on whether this approach has tangible benefits than most.
Has it actually increased participation in womens events?
There's no doubt that Brititsh women dominate at the top level, and I'm sure it's in no small part due to the BDS but has the standard increased at all levels for women?
PB recently ran an article about the changes to WCs which reduced the number of women in the finals. Many cited the safety of the riders and the lack of ability for some competitors to get down the course. These would be riders who would have previously featured in televised finals. Does this change your opinion of the merit of your approach, given it is generally accepted that any one of the top 20 men (again, where British dominate) can win and not just 'survive' at WC level? It's safe to say that the competition for such prize money is generally far higher in men's DH. Should the amount of prize money not reflect that, or do you take the view that women like Rachel work at as much of their capacity as the men do and that should be rewarded?
  • + 3
 @si-paton @Deuce-DeuceAndAHalf: Yes, I'd like to see if increasing prize money increased the attendance.
  • + 1
 Equal prize money is bullshit.
Imagine if girls showed up to rampage. Rode like girls, did a bunch of 10 footers and maybe a weak bar turn or two. And made the same money as the real winners?
  • + 2
 @jflb: And what is the only difference between said hypothetical rampage girls and me?

Things between the legs. That is true sexism.
  • + 2
 @theminsta: the difference is you don't think you're worth the same money as the most impressive riding in the world while being totally average.
  • + 4
 @theminsta: I've been thinking about this a bit because it's actually not as simple as 'men are faster and the field is more competitive'. I started thinking that equal prize money is fair considering all competitors have the same expenses to cover to attend a race such as fuel, accomodation, equipment etc regardless of their sex. But then I thought about what it meant to be in a more competitive field and what it takes to win. And quite simply it costs more to win when there are more potential winners, in terms of time commitment, training and risk. So if you had a group turning up to Rampage who got the same financial reward for doing 10 footers and a few bar turns then why would those who are capable of doing 80ft canyon gaps bother their hole to attempt such a risky manoeuvre? Why spend weeks in Utah training for the event, hundreds, if not thousands of hours in the gym and the foam pit, work with engineers to make sure your equipment is at it's best (and maybe invest more money in new tech) and then risk your life for the possibility of getting no more financial reward than someone who doesn't need to go anywhere near to those extremes to earn the same money? This isn't exclusive to the highest echelon either- think of how hard it is just to get to a WC level, or an invite to compete at Rampage.
It's harder to succeed and win in a mens field; It's only fair the higher cost and risks required to win should be recognised and suitably rewarded.
  • + 1
 She's a good ambassador for the sport and a grate roll model for up and coming young riders out there can't go wrong following in her foot steps with a good family and team behind her I wish all the best for the future. Well done.
  • + 1
 Good luck Rachel. Getting more women and girls riding and racing downhill is always going to be tough for several reasons. The overall standard will only rise if numbers of participating girls goes up and skill levels grow accordingly. It’s normal for the average boy to want to be a fairly reckless and throw themselves down a steep hill, usually with a bunch of mates. It’s not normal for young girls – maybe it’s because at that age they are generally smarter than boys, either way you’re not comparing apples with apples. Girls that do give downhill a serious go probably represent a tiny fraction that can get their heads around the whole concept – maybe the equivalent of the number of blokes who fancy a go at something like base jumping. More readily available coaching for girls in gravity riding to give them proper skills to overcome natural apprehension is the way forward, like BC does in every other aspect of cycling. BC are falling over themselves to coach track and XC riding but for downhill you’re on your own. A present any girl [or women] who races DH has usually overcome so many obstacles to get there that they deserve some serious respect even when they are not as quick as the lads.
  • + 4
 Rachel is pretty awesome.
  • + 8
 She right up there with Peaty in the legendary category for me!
  • + 4
 Freakin right Rach!
Trying to get my wife into it, any tips?
  • + 1
 If you want to get your wife into racing you should check out the winter gravity series at Bootleg canyon, fun event, good people.
  • + 3
 'Gravity Commission cool sounding name, what's her title with them? 'Executive descent technician'?
  • + 1
 Now to see if we can get a race series in the UK that gives out some uci points then? Bit of a joke that any aspiring world cup ravers have to travel to Europe or further to get points these days....
  • + 4
 Good work lady!
  • + 2
 It's too bad they didn't hire one of her brothers first so she'd know what to do with the job.
  • + 1
 All hail Commissioner Atherton!
  • + 0
 @jdsusmc Get into your wife? Just the tip!
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