The Interview | Dan Atherton Talks About 2015 Highs and Lows
Antur Stiniog was the setting again for this year’s GT Factory Racing Experience day. We went along for the day’s riding with the team and to hook up with Dan Atherton and get some of his thoughts about winter training and future plans. He was back in the UK between racing EWS Ireland and EWS Scotland, so we sat down and had a head to head.
How’s your off-season been, you feeling fit?
Progressive! I had a really strong off-season, with the bonus of coming into it with no injuries, and then we had a series of really good training camps with our coach Alan Milway. It’s amazing how fit and strong you can become in such a short space of time. When you get to my age (33) after you’ve been training and racing for so many years you know what you need to do to get to a certain level. You can get there a lot quicker because you have so much muscle memory, you’ve done it all before, you know what works, what doesn’t work. You work with your coach to get there but you know your own body.
First EWS, tell us about your incident and what went through your mind when you hit your head.
Coming into New Zealand I knew it would be the hardest round of the year, but in my head I wanted to get a top five result. Everyone said it would be flat, tight and quite slow, but actually it was pretty good, it was quite like Wales; rooty and wet! It was flat and it was hard to get going, the Sanction likes to be ridden hard and fast but I felt good on course, I felt strong and like that top five was well within reach, the last two stages were going to be the strongest stages for me, because they were more downhill and more suited to the bike. But on stage five I was pushing quite hard, I’d pushed hard on the stage in practice and I knew that I had chosen quite high-risk lines, but in the race when I was tiring, a few things happened that meant it didn’t work out for me, first I caught up the guy in front of me (he was on my line and I had a small crash there) then another bigger crash; that put me out really. I started to pedal up to the top for Stage six but my neck was too painful and I wasn’t prepared to put myself in that position again, so I sacked it off.
How are you getting on with your new sponsors?
Well I think thats the beauty of Atherton Racing, when we started racing we knew that we didn’t want to change sponsors every year. We didn’t want constant change to the infrastructure, so we found a team manager, mechanics and we made Atherton Racing and sponsors support that team, so no matter who sponsors are there is always the same core structure in the team. That helps, we almost have a closer relationship with the sponsors because there is less pressure, it works for everyone. We’ve got Jeep, Bell and IXS, they’re all new this year and it’s cool, they can draw on Dan Brown’s vast wealth of knowledge…
How are you settling in Dyfi, any Trail Centre plans?
Yeah, something I’ve always wanted to do is to bring Downhill in out of the cold, sometimes you just want somewhere to ride and test with your mates that’s challenging but legal, it can be a challenge in the UK to find a good Downhill track – we’ve got Antur Stiniog and Revolution but it’s something that we’ve been thinking about and working on in Dyfi, it would be a good location for some awesome, uplifted and legal DH tracks and another place to train for World Cups.
How are your training plans different to Martin Maes’s?
Well we are completely different athletes. He’s very young, he hasn’t got my experience but he does have enormous passion and he’s got the motivation. He’s got loads of energy and he’s fresher, he can almost train harder, my routine has to be more structured, I need to get more out of every session. He has so much energy, the same with Tay (Taylor Vernon) they are so up for it.
Is having Martin snapping at your heels putting pressure on you to perform?
Yeah, this year more than ever. He’s young but he’s been racing for years, he’s already an experienced athlete, he knows his body and he knows how to race.
Your riding styles are very different, he’s aggressive and sketchy, you’re smooth and powerful, are you learning from each other?
Yeah, sometimes I’m way too mellow, I don’t put enough effort in, a tiny bit off the pace can build up over the day, that’s something that doesn’t happen to Martin!
So what are your goals for the rest of the season?
Ireland’s looking good, and Scotland too – wet, rooty and slippery is what I’m expecting, its what I love. They’re my first goals. Crested Butte looks gnarly, the amount of climbing in one day is going to be tough for me, it’ll be a tough race for everybody I expect!
You’ve had some serious injuries. If it happens again and it gets a bit gnarly, will you stop?
I don’t know if I could quit if I wanted to . Once you’ve had that limelight, if you’ve still got that speed there’s no way that you can step away from it. It’d be a brave man that stepped away.
How’s the Red Bull Hardline coming along for this year?
It’s a step up from last year, Red Bull never do anything by halves. Gee and me wanted to build Hardline and put that event on for years, then last year everything came together. It was amazing last year, but we had six weeks to build the track, so already this year it’s looking better, its going to blow a lot of people’s minds.
And now that you’ve lost your team-mate Marc Beaumont, should he have switched to Enduro?
Yeah he’s super-fit and one of the fastest riders I’ve ever ridden with, but when you get up in the middle of the winter and you’ve got to go and train, or you get up on race morning and what you have to do is stretching ahead of you. That’s when it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, you’ve got to be the one who gets out of bed and when you are throwing yourself down that hill the worth has to be enough to take the risk and obviously it wasn’t for him – he’s been there, and obviously it wasn’t right.
Finally are you going to ride any UK races this year?
Yeah Dyfi , the UKGE National Champs – I’ll be there….
Interview: Jim Buchanan Pics: Doc Ward