By Steve Thomas
The Atherton family home is located on the side of a spectacular mountain valley and is shared by Dan, Gee, Rachel and their mother - and of course a constant stream of transient mountain bikers. Life for the family team of Commencal Animal began a lot further south, near Exeter in Devon, as Dan explained, "We lived in a small village, and I started riding BMX, then Gee and then Rachel began to come along and got into things. We began building tracks; there wasn't much else to do."
Indeed building tracks is still a passion for the trio - especially Dan who said, "We've got the dirt track, complete with start gates at home, as well as numerous downhill tracks here in the mountains; one's even ten minutes long. I'm really into that side of things, I love figuring it out and building stuff."
The family home would be the envy of any mountain bike team, with a huge workshop, a gym and store-rooms as well as the back "yard" dirt track, and this is where much of their race preparation takes place. "What we do on a daily basis depends some on the weather," said Gee. "In the morning it's usually straight into the gym for training. Then we recover some and do the admin type work, and then go riding."
Riding is a surprisingly mixed bag for the Athertons, and Dan is keyed into the training element. "Sometimes we spend a lot of time here at home on the track, practicing starts and dirt skills, largely for four cross; other times we take the pickup and go downhilling. If there is time between races, we go cross-country riding, and sometimes even on the road. We often take the moto-cross bikes out."
Training and preparation have always been something that they have been rumoured to take more seriously than others. "I think most riders train hard really," said Dan. "We do put a lot of time in. But we also work on three things - downhilling, four cross and freeriding - others often just focus on one or two. I think if we chose to focus on just one thing, then we would do a lot better."
To read the complete feature, click here. Stay tuned for Part II.