"Mountain biking has a huge following and a life on its own without the Olympics."

All-conquering Rachel Atherton has told BBC Sport that she no longer “needs the validation of an Olympic medal” after completing her perfect 2016 season.

There is also talk of Atherton having a crack at enduro racing.


The perfect season

Last weekend Atherton won the UCI Downhill World Champs which came after her World Cup Series success where she won every round – achieving a previously unheard of ‘perfect season’.

The final World Cup win was her 13th successive World Cup win.

Atherton told the BBC: “I’m pretty proud and content with what I have achieved,”

“Mountain biking has a huge following and a life on its own without (downhill being included in) the Olympics.”

“Now I have got older, I don’t really think that I need the validation of an Olympic medal. I am not bothered anymore.

“I definitely used to want to switch to track at some point but in mountain biking you spend a lot of time outside in the mountains – I think I would miss that lifestyle.”

Olympic cold shoulder

The decision to include XC mountain bike racing in the Olympics instead of Downhill has always been something of a controversial point to a lot of mountain bikers.

But much like the Enduro World Series deciding to carry on without the official involvement of the UCI, Downhill has thrived since being cold-shouldered for Olympic event selection. Downhill has proved that it really doesn’t need the Olympics.

An enduro future?

Interestingly, the BBC asked Atherton about whether she’d try enduro racing in the future. Atherton replied: “That would be a huge challenge, having the fitness to do that, but it is something that I would be pretty excited to give a go.”

A move into enduro would mirror a similar move made by fellow Brit DH legend Tracy Moseley who retired from Downhill racing to focus on the Enduro World Series and other enduro events.

It’s unlikely that Atherton will forego DH racing in 2017 but after that, who knows? We can certainly understand the temptation to quit at the top.