|Rachel Atherton has set her sights on winning her fitness battle in time for the opening World Cup race of 2020 on March 21 in Lousã, Portugal.
The Queen of the UCI MTB World Cup scene has been out of action since rupturing her Achilles while competing in Les Gets last July.
Ahead of her comeback, we spoke to the British rider and 39-time World Cup winner about her fear of getting back on the bike, the season ahead, wedding planning, and her new range of bikes.
How are you and how’s the injury healing?
I’m pretty good. Six months post-surgery for my torn Achilles tendon rupture. It’s just been frustrating waiting for the tendon to heal enough so finally I can get back in the gym and start putting the weight on to get the tendon strong and hoping that it’s going to be ready for the first World Cup. Now’s the time I can really start loading it. It feels like it’s been such a long time without riding the bike and I’m really buzzing to get back on the bike. I’m going to be pushing hard for that first World Cup.
How was it getting back on the bike for the first time or were you really nervous?
It was pretty scary! I borrowed my Mum’s eMTB and took it really slow. It’s just such a bizarre injury with no strength there in the calf. You feel so nervous all the time to do something. Until I’ve got full strength I can’t do any drops or put a lot of pressure on so it’s really tentative and slow but just getting out on the bike in the mountains and the fresh air – freedom at last – it’s just amazing. Everyone is struggling with injuries online, texting all the time and it’s amazing to share the story with them.
Can you talk us through the rehab work you’ve been doing and how frustrating it’s been?
I spent three months in the boot with crutches. At that time, there’s not really much you can do, just a bit of movement and trying to keep the swelling down and gradually every few weeks you can make little steps. Being able to walk without the boot was a huge step, putting weight on the foot and on the tendon was really exciting but scary. The first time in the gym doing calf raises, that was really exciting. Being able to have improvement every few weeks is really motivating. It feels a long time until I can ride big jumps and race tracks, but every little goal you reach – being able to do a squat, being able to put the weight up in the gym, that’s what you’ve got to focus on, each day and each week and eventually you’ll be ready and fit to ride and race.