With the whole team in attendance, we sat down to an evening of free drinks, pizza and talk about what makes the team have one of the most successful race programs on the Downhill World Cup and Enduro World Series circuits.
The team not only consists of the riders, mechanics and manager Dan Brown, it also uses the services of trainers, physios, sports psychologists and this year a professional chef. Each part of the puzzle plays a vital role in taking the stress away from the riders and making sure they have the tools to succeed at the highest level.
Although nothing was said about the downhill bike directly, the new Fury is 650b and has had the full Fox treatment featuring RAD suspension components. The team are very confident in the new machine after two training camps in Spain and Italy. With a fresh build of Shimano and Pro components, the bike is looking very dialled with slight changes from the already successful Fury.
Something that was kept fairly quiet is that Gee Atherton has had surgery on his ankle to fix an injury that had been with him through the last few rounds of the tightly contested World Cup. Now 100% fit, Gee is back on the hunt for the leader's jersey for the DH World Cup.
Taylor Vernon is fit and ready to take on the world circuit after breaking his back in a horrifying crash last year, saying that getting back up to speed is a process you can't rush and he joked that he "has gotten his big one out of the way early".
Dan Atherton is out with a hairline fracture to his tibia and will miss the first round of the Enduro World Series. He is moving his attention at the moment to getting his new home up and running and has an interest in helping younger riders in the newly formed Atherton Academy. Through this academy, the team is supporting some younger riders to live their dreams of making it on the world scene.
Martin Maes made some big waves in the Enduro World in Series in 2013 by winning the junior title. He has had his first enduro of the season at home and won by 32 seconds. He has managed to stay healthy in the off season and is moving up to the senior ranks for 2014. The GT story runs deep in the Maes family, Martin's dad raced for GT winning 23 national titles in slalom, downhill and 4x. That's more than all three Athertons put together.
Marc Beaumont has had a good off season utilising the team's trainer Alan Millway. Beaumont spoke of being disappointed with his runs on race day and the need to keep his training fresh to improve results for this year.
Rachel Atherton has also had a great off season, staying closer to home this season rather than venturing out to America or New Zealand. She has had a lot of mainstream media attention resulting in her winning the BT Action Sportswoman of the year, an award similar to NZs Halberg Sports Awards.
2014 looks to be a strong season for GT Factory Racing with all the tools in place for some dominant results across all of the gravity events around the world.
Press Release: GT Factory Racing Launch their 2014 Campaign.
With the first round of the British Downhill Series kicking off at Antur Stiniog this weekend, Round 1 of the Downhill World Cup in Pietermaritzburg just 15 days away and Round 1 of the Enduro World Series set to kick off in Chile seven days later the GT Factory Racing team met with fans and the media at the headquarters of Red Bull UK. The team unveiled new bikes and race kit and chatted about the strength that they draw from being part of the immensely successful Atherton/GT bicycles collaboration and their individual goals as they gear up for 2014.
In this 3rd year of partnership with GT Factory Racing the team will be aiming to defend the “World’s Fastest Downhill team“ Title which they have held for the previous two years as well as a World Championship, Overall World Series wins in Downhill and Enduro, two British National Championships and two British Series Championships.
The team will be aboard a couple of prototype bikes from GT this year, these bikes have been built to the needs of the race team and at present there are no plans to take them into production. The most obvious upgrade to the Fury is the move to 650b wheels, which the team have tested extensively for the past 6 months. The team have worked closely with GT’s chief engineer Etienne Warney on a few other modifications, which will remain a closely guarded secret while Atherton Racing and GT strive together to produce the fastest bikes on the circuit.
The rider line up is unchanged from 2013
Gee Atherton, Men’s Elite – World Cup Ranking 2nd
Rachel Atherton, Women’s Elite - World Champion, Overall World Cup Series Winner
Marc Beaumont, Men’s Elite – World Cup Ranking 20th
Taylor Vernon, Junior
Martin Maes – Junior World Champion
Following the actual and potential success of our junior riders Taylor and Martin and the acknowledging the contribution they have made to the development of the team we will be supporting a third young rider, 14 year old Kade Edwards from Huddersfield, through our Atherton Academy. The Academy will become a stepping stone programme guiding young talent through the initial stages of their race careers.
Team Director Dan Brown said “We are delighted to be racing into 2014 with the same winning formula of rider line-up and sponsor partnerships. 2013 saw some significant developments and some exciting successes, we plan to build upon these successes and redress a few hardships. There’ll be some changes for sure, as team director I’ll do everything I can to let the riders shine and I’m confident that my support team and all of the sponsors are right behind me.”
2013 was an vintage year for Rachel Atherton with a World Championship win, Overall series win in World Cup, she overtook Steve Peat’s World Cup victories to became the most awarded British Mountain-biker in the history of the sport and helped to put Downhill Mountain-biking on the mainstream sports fans’ map when she won the inaugural BT action Woman of the year award.
Rachel said, “I cannot wait to get started on 2014. People ask if I’m satisfied and where I will find a challenge but I will never be satisfied, and I’m fully aware that the Women racers are getting faster and stronger every season. If they want those titles they are going to have to push me hard for them.”
Gee Atherton is recognised as one of the most consistently successful mountain-bikers ever to race. 2013 looked to be the year he might take the overall World Cup Series for the second time in his career but in a nail-biting final he was beaten back to second place. This year he aims to change that – and there is the small matter of a World Championship to contend.
Gee said “ Everything is here for me – the new bikes are great, we have an amazing support system in place and I’m coming off the back of a great winter’s training – now it’s down to me to put it all together for the win.”
Marc Beaumont agreed, “ I think we are all feeling really good. Everybody knows that I was disappointed with where I ended up last year but I’ll be looking to get back into the top 10 – pre season has gone well, I'm really comfortable with the new bike it feels amazing…I know that I have the capability and the support necessary to make happen so I won’t rest until I’m back up there.
Taylor Vernon said “ Last year was so hard for me but thanks to incredible support from my family, the Injury management team at Harris and Ross and all of the GT Factory Racing team I’m ready to race again. I’ve learnt a lot from this whole experience and I’m stoked to be getting back out there.
Dan Atherton said, “I am devastated to be missing Round 1 of the World Series, I’ve never been more ready to race, but I‘ve been here many times before and I know exactly the path I need to take to get race fit again.”
Martin Maes said “I am massively disappointed for Dan and I’ll miss having my friend and mentor with me in Chile but at the same time I’m massively excited to get the season started – it’s been agreed that I can start with the General Classification
For more information on GT Factory Racing visit www.athertonracing.co.uk, follow us on twitter @athertonracing or facebook https://www.facebook.com/athertonracing