Rachel Atherton has been named as 2016 BT Sport Action Woman of the Year this evening, bringing the curtain down fittingly on her unbeaten year.
The award, now in its fourth year, recognises the most outstanding sporting achievements of the last year by female athletes. Three other cyclists made the shortlist: Laura Kenny, Dame Sarah Storey and Kadeena Cox, and Atherton’s success follows hot on the heels of Kenny being named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year last week.
Atherton has enjoyed a ‘perfect’ 2016, making history by winning every single UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup – the first rider in history to do so – before going on to take the world title in September.
The seven world cup victories she claimed in 2016 mean that Atherton has now won 13 consecutive world cup races overall, and this year saw her break the previous record of nine successive wins.
At the World Championships in Val di Sole, the 28-year-old was the final rider down the start ramp and dealt with the pressure to deliver a superb run, claiming her fourth world title after clocking time three seconds quicker than her nearest challenger.
That world title was one of a total of five won by the four cyclists shortlisted for the award, while in total, Britain’s female riders also won five Olympic and 11 Paralympic medals in Rio.
As the fantastic achievements of Britain’s elite female cyclists are recognised at the end of what has been another hugely fruitful year, British Cycling continues to work to ensure that their success inspires women of all ages and abilities to get into the sport.
The organisation has a target to get one million more women into cycling by 2020, and this year has seen yet more encouraging signs. In July, it was announced that there has been a 70% increase in the number of trained female coaches since the strategy was launched in 2013.
Also this summer, British Cycling’s Breeze programme celebrated both its fifth birthday and attracting its 100,000th participant. Breeze rides are local, fun, social rides led by female volunteers – ‘Breeze champions’ – which give women the chance to get out and enjoy cycling with like-minded riders.