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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.