Atherton siblings eye third consecutive British downhill titles

Atherton siblings eye third consecutive British downhill titles

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Reigning champions Gee and Rachel Atherton will both contemplate winning a third consecutive British downhill title at the British Cycling National Mountain Bike Downhill Championships in Innerleithen on 19-20 July.

The siblings dominated proceedings last year in Llangynog, Wales, as they did in Moelfre in 2012. However, both will face world-class opposition when they travel to Peeblesshire at the weekend.

Gee Atherton approaches the championships as favourite to retain his title, leading the British Cycling MTB Downhill Series with one round remaining after a win in Llangollen.

The GT Factory Racing rider is currently fourth in the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup standings, one place behind Josh Bryceland, who is likely to be Atherton’s chief adversary at the weekend.

The Santa Cruz Syndicate rider is in stellar form, having won the last round of the world cup in Leogang, Austria, beating teammate and world champion Greg Minnaar in the process.

Bryceland won’t be Atherton’s only competition with a quality field bursting with new and established talent.

Atherton’s teammate Marc Beaumont is pushing Atherton hard for the national series while Madison Saracen Factory Team’s Sam Dale is also on the start list, as is Dale’s teammate Matt Simmonds, who beat Atherton in Austria.

While 2011 world champion Danny Hart is a notable absentee, the presence of Brendan Fairclough, Mike Jones, Steve Peat and Llangollen runner-up Joe Smith means that Atherton will have his work cut out if he intends to make it three in a row in Innerleithen.

Rachel Atherton dominated the national championships in Llangynog in 2013, just one achievement in a glittering year that saw the GT Factory Racing rider crowned world champion and world cup champion, winning four rounds to become Britain’s most prolific world cup downhill winner.

However 2014 has seen Atherton’s season stutter with illness and ill fortune dogging her campaign.

Atherton won round one of the national series in Antur Stiniog before illness forced her out of round two in Fort William. The 26-year-old from Wells also missed round three in Ae Forest before returning to dominate in Llangollen a few weeks ago.

Atherton’s chief rival is in no doubt, with Madison Saracen Factory Team’s Manon Carpenter flying high on the domestic and world cup scene.

Carpenter leads the UCI world cup standings after a win in Leogang and also leads the domestic downhill series. The 21-year-old from Caerphilly was just seconds behind Atherton at the last round of the British downhill series in Llangollen, setting up a mouth-watering encounter on the tight, technical Innerleithen course.

World cup high-flyer Tahnee Seagrave is absent from the starting line-up leaving Jess Stone, Jess Greaves and Katy Curd to battle it out with Carpenter and Atherton for the remaining medal position.

Racing in all categories begins at 9am on Saturday 19 July and concludes with the final runs on Sunday 20 July.