Update Interview: Rachel Atherton - "I Didn't Want to Look Down"

Jul 26, 2019
by Simon Paton  
Sadly this is the last we will see of Rachel Atherton this weekend as she has suffered and injury to her achilles tendon.


Rachel Atherton came into Les Gets second in the women's series with the momentum of a win in Vallnord driving her forwards. Unfortunately, that all came to a grinding halt on the final jump of the track after a heavy landing led to her snapping her Achilles tendon. We've all seen the brutal footage she later posted on her Instagram but we decided to catch up with her on the opening day of DyFi bike park, where she was taking on her new role doing sign ons, to get the full lowdown on her injury and what happens next.


Rachel Atherton took a full three seconds off her qualifying time and along with that the victory here in Andorra.


Talk us through it. It was first practice wasn't it?


Yeah, first practice day on the Thursday. I'd done a couple of practice runs down the course and I was loving it, really excited but trying to contain myself and not hit everything first run.

It was the final drop into the last few corners before the finish, I didn't even register in trackwalk that it was a big jump or that it might be hard, and then our junior Mille Johnset, had a really big crash on the jump in morning practice.


Yeah, she's a really good jumper too.


Yeah, she's from Hafjell in Norway and has been sending the massive jumps since she was like 10 or 11 years old. She knows what she's doing.




Did that ring any alarm bells for you?


Yeah, I was like shit, maybe it is hard. It was just a super flat landing, a bit ridiculous really. Apparently, the French are not very good at building jumps, I didn't know that, I just learned that afterward (laughs). It was just super flat and she just slapped down so hard it bucked her over the bars.

bigquotesI thought it was going to be broken, dislocated, f*cking annihilated.

I came in, I checked the drop out twice in my previous runs and thought it looked fine, a bit of a pull but it should be fine. I came in, maybe a bit slow and as I jumped I thought I was going to case it and I didn't want to do what Mille had done so I think my weight was further back than normal. I landed and just felt this most bizarre, not pain, but my foot just felt so bizarre. It was my leading foot as well, my right foot, and it just felt mental. I thought I'd dislocated it.


That's strange isn't it because I would have thought it would be your trailing foot that takes all the pressure.


Yeah, I think I didn't want to go over the bars like Mille had done so I think I must have just leaned back more than normal and it was obviously super flat so the impact must have snapped the tendon. Obviously, I didn't know that's what I'd done. Five seconds later the pain kicked in, it was ridiculous. I was still rolling at this point, I was trying to roll my ankle.


So close but just off the win today for Rachel Atherton and her family s new Atherton DH bike.


Yeah, we've all seen the video, did you look down or...?


I was absolutely shitting myself, I didn't want to look down. I thought my foot would be backwards. There have been some bad injuries like Steve and Josh and even PomPom, I was real scared to look. I thought it was going to be broken, dislocated, f*cking annihilated.

There were no medics at the finish so I didn't want to stop, I just like to sort myself out. So I rolled back through town, down the road with oncoming traffic and I was screaming. I got into the pits and I lay on the floor and they cut off my shoe. It was good though, the medics came eventually and took me to the medical centre. I got some x-rays, the doctor came and immediately she was like, "ah, you're Achilles has snapped". You do a calf test and you pulsate your calf and with a snapped tendon your foot doesn't move at all.

bigquotesI normally do shoulder injuries so to learn a new injury is pretty exciting


Did you know what that meant at the time? Did you know that was bad?


Well yeah, it's always the injury as you grow up you learn is a bad one, so I was pretty devastated then. I flew home the next morning and went straight to the specialist in Manchester. They sorted me out so quickly. The surgeon was going on holiday on the Sunday so I saw him on the Friday night and he did the operation on Saturday morning, it was so good, so quick.


A tight battle between Rachel Atherton and Tracey Hannah over the whole length of the track kept people guessing to the very end. It was Rach who d seize the advantage in the final sectors of the track.


So what's the update then, where are we at now?


I mean it's been a learning curve, I normally do shoulder injuries so to learn a new injury is pretty exciting. It's a totally snapped tendon so they just sewed it back together and I've just got to wait for that to heal really. With this injury the slower you can take it the better.

I've had so many messages off people in the community that have done the same thing and that's been really useful so it's just a waiting game really. It's probably 2 months before I can get that weight bearing and start walking again. We're pretty close to the end of the season now so there's no way I'll make it back, which in a way is good because you can really take your time with recovery. I'll be looking to be back on the bike in like 3 months I think.

Dare I say it, it's not nice to be injured but it's nice to be at home. We've obviously just opened DyFi bike park and seeing everyone's reaction, it's nice to have been here for that.


89 Comments

  • + 94
 Crib notes for building a DH track:

Flat turns - good
Flat landings - bad
  • + 81
 Flat beer - bad
  • + 69
 Flat buttocks - bad
  • + 74
 @colincolin: * Flatulent buttocks - bad
  • + 11
 Flat sections - bad.
  • + 26
 @bigtim: flat jokes - good
  • + 18
 Flat tires - bad
  • + 3
 Flat Vorbau - bad
  • + 26
 Flat out - good
  • + 36
 Flat Eric - tune
  • - 12
flag pk71 (Jul 26, 2019 at 6:09) (Below Threshold)
 Flat Flat - bad. Almost Flat - so and so. Tough - good
  • + 74
 Flat earthers - bad
  • + 22
 Flat Turns - good 3.6 Roentgens - not great, not terrible....
  • + 1
 Flat Schnitzel - good
  • + 5
 @overconfident: flat earthers-retarded
  • + 22
 Flat White - hipster
  • - 3
 Right, check, check and double, triple check, "flat" is bad.
  • + 13
 B Flat - good
  • + 14
 Flat pancakes - good Flat waffles - bad
  • - 4
flag vjunior21 (Jul 26, 2019 at 8:51) (Below Threshold)
 Rach needed to be riding a Brooklyn Machine Works: Huck to flat...advisable. LOL
  • + 22
 Flats - good
  • + 7
 Flathead Ford - good and bad

@overconfident: Careful - according to them, they have "supporters around the globe"
  • + 18
 Flat spins - sick
  • - 3
 @overconfident: Cannot upvote you enough good Sir, thank you for pointing out something so satisfying.
  • - 2
 @kleinblake: E flat tuned guitars, amazing: every song on Weezer's blue album stand as testament. As does every Van Halen song, ever.
  • - 4
flag jase111171 (Jul 26, 2019 at 10:00) (Below Threshold)
 Flat bread-shit
  • + 3
 Flat Beat - good
  • + 11
 Flat mates - Good memories
  • - 10
flag marvintheandroid (Jul 26, 2019 at 14:04) (Below Threshold)
 Flat Cunt - bad
  • + 4
 @scotttherider: Don't insult the retarded like that.
  • + 1
 flat leavers - good
  • + 2
 @BeerGuzlinFool: Thanks for calling that comment out. I get sick of doing it myself.
  • + 2
 You guys did a pretty good job with these comments. They are pretty well rounded. Wah wah.
  • + 1
 @Dropthedebt: hey now, I drink flat whites and I ain't no hipster...
  • + 40
 «Apparently, the French are not very good at building jumps, I don't know» = Cheap shot
  • - 6
flag visser62 (Jul 26, 2019 at 6:36) (Below Threshold)
 Yeah, that seemed like an odd thing to say.
  • + 27
 Actually seeing the track from the french national championships... the shot could be legit Smile

Let's not put all eggs in the same basket, but that jump was poorly built. A landing never hurts...!
  • + 9
 I'm French and honestly not a lot of jumps are wall designed in the bike parks. Most of them are bad especially for the average people.
Of course there are some exception like the new trail "follow me" in les Orres.. A super nice new blue trail wich reminds me Whistler flow trails.
  • + 7
 My thought also. I mean, earlier in the interview she confesses herself that she did not notice the shape of this jump (and how big it was) and/or did not take the time to really analyze it. Sounds more like a mistake, costly one for sure, but it happens sometimes even to the best of the best. And don't misjudge me, I have mad respect and admiration for Rach, she's a true warrior and a wonderful icon for our sport.
On a side note, I am pretty curious to know if lots of riders have complained about it and express their will to see the landing modified? (like it has been the case in Leogang when Remi injured his back on the last jump)

I see the neg props coming, but it's just not fair to attack the builders like this.
  • - 6
flag scotttherider (Jul 26, 2019 at 7:56) (Below Threshold)
 Didn’t Thirion break his back off of a poorly built French jump?
  • + 6
 My bad Leogang was Austria.
  • + 7
 @hpman83: Maybe it's part of the French national team's training? If you can smash bad jumps quickly and cleanly, when Bruni and Pierron ride tracks with actual landings, they're untouchable. It's home advantage conditioning, like how British winter slop makes for some of the best bad-conditions racers; Hart in Champerey being a classic example
  • + 3
 @Aksel31: I really don't think she's knocking "the French" as a whole. I think she was just saying it wasn't a well built jump, and the course happened to be in France. To me it did look like a poorly built feature. While no one else blew out their achillies (which was just a freak occurrence) it did look like a pretty awkward and harsh landing for almost all the riders.
  • - 1
 @hpman83: American's (United States Citizens) do this too. Northstar has some oddly steep and high table tops in very short sections of trail in between corners. We're talking 20 meters of trail with meter and a half high table tops with a meter long table.

????
  • + 7
 Let’s face it, that jump was the deciding factor in the women’s race and not a lot of them were prepared to risk it. While I personally think difficult & technical sections are a good thing, this jump just maybe needs to be revised to be a bit safer
  • + 11
 @freekandy: I think everyone is taking her comments about "the French" a little too literally. I really don't think she meant it as a knock on everyone in France. I think she just made the comment because the track is in France. If it were in Val Di Sole next race she probably would have said the Italians can't build jumps. Of course there can be and are poorly built jumps everywhere.
  • + 6
 @sino428: Agreed. She's too classy and interacts with too many people from France to actually bash them. Besides, how can anyone bash the French? Especially now? Last races podium was the most positive, talented, cheerful podium in possibly ever.
  • - 3
 Wow, caught off guard by that comment too. I'm sure she meant it tounge and cheek, but it was kind of a classless statement. Very surprising from her it seems.
  • + 4
 Didn't Wyn Masters make a remark about it too?
  • + 11
 Cant we all bash and get bashed and just laugh at eachother?!!
  • + 0
 @Rideuse67: badum tss....
you know, cuz no landing did hurt some riders there.
  • + 3
 Considering all the building her brother does I think she has a super-low tolerance for badly built features.
  • + 13
 Heal up well Rachel. Can’t wait to check Dyfi out!

I type this injured, off the bike for several more months.
You pro’s are an absolute inspiration. Years ago injured I’d just sit around feeling sorry for myself. Your matra of “I will come back stronger than before” has hit home this injury. I’ve just got back from the gym excersing everything I still can. Thank you!
  • + 8
 Good on yer mate. It can be depressing being injured cos you are not getting the buzz from exercising and it can be hard to find something to replace that with. I keep finding myself down the pub when injured and return about 5kg heavier... so hats off to you for getting in the gym. I’m determined to do that next time!
  • + 8
 What a woman and ATHLETE!! Can’t ride and nursing a snapped Achilles’ tendon so instead of staying away from the sport she’s welcoming people to the bike park they’ve built to help the sport grow!! Nothing short of astonishing!

Well done Athertons , truly wonderful people to have in our sport
  • - 5
flag Malky79 (Jul 26, 2019 at 15:05) (Below Threshold)
 @sewer-rat Fanboy much?
  • + 9
 fair point but only in recent times, I never used to be in all honesty. There was a point (The Commencal and GT days) where I really couldn’t stand them. HOWEVER I think the social media stuff has showed me that they weren’t the robots I depicted back then and they HAVE and do contribute significantly both to women’s riding (my niece races 4x and I have a good friend who races elite DH) and to the UK scene in general (Fox hunt, Hardline, bike parks etc). That’s without the unbelievable (and unrecognised by the media) career Rachel has had. To top it off they’ve now launched a bike brand and park in the same year and instead of resting she’s there welcoming people to the park! Not a fan boy, just more of someone that appreciates hard work and dedication that delivers life goals
  • + 6
 Can relate to the feeling - it was my leading foot as well ( in my case, left ) - looking back, it was the best thing it could have happened to me - I was always on the go, packed weekends, always out doing something - and then I had time to get my shit together and sort out things I had been putting aside - like grandma used to say, look for the blessing in disguise - heal up soon !
  • + 5
 Get well Rachel, however long it takes, we know you'll be back stronger than ever. Glad you could stick the new bike on the podium this year, that's a big accomplishment.
  • + 1
 I sometimes get my ankles “inflated “ ,just because that same ,oh it’s going to be short ,let me just defend from the impact ,and we just go back a little more and don’t make pressure enough on the pedals and our feet’s don’t have any support they are not connected to the rest of the feet ,get well and please don’t give up the DH stuff
  • + 1
 I wonder if Rachel had used antibiotics? Apparently some antibiotics can weaken tendons that may lead to ruptures.
  • + 1
 Yes. Cipro, or ciprofloxacin, one of its main side effects is increased risk of Achilles tendon damage. Do Not Take it!
  • + 1
 Your the best Rach. We all love you. Heal up and go sending down the hill again.
  • + 0
 "Apparently, the French are not very good at building jumps, I didn't know that, I just learned that afterward (laughs)."

Classic deflection.
  • + 0
 It was maybe not the best designed landing, but she cased it big time. Maybe she should have got some tips from Salazar.
  • + 2
 Full Devo.
  • + 2
 Heal soon Rachel!
  • + 1
 Heal up Rachel!
  • + 0
 The Atherton era of domination is about to be over
  • + 1
 Next year will be a Hoell lot of fun! Sry my umlaats arent working on this device
  • + 0
 Take your time healing!
Maybe you should race enduro then?
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