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The perfect season

In her first year with Trek Factory Racing Downhill, Rachel Atherton accomplished the unimaginable. She won every UCI World Cup event and the World Championships, achieving the first-ever perfect season in the history of World Cup mountain biking. It’s an accomplishment so exceptional it may never be repeated. Mountain biking, and downhill in particular, is a sport of split-second decisions with real consequences. Races are won and lost by milliseconds, and one miscalculation can be the difference between first and DNF. To win a single race at the highest level, everything must go exactly right. Each line must be perfectly executed, the bike must perform flawlessly, and, most importantly, the athlete must be in top form. These variables are what make back-to-back wins so rare and remarkable. Rachel, though—she won fourteen in succession.

Her path to the perfect season was long and fraught with challenges—including a crash during a training ride that nearly ended her career, as well as periods plagued with illness and injury that derailed her dreams in seasons past—but Rachel entered 2016 on top, wearing the signature rainbow stripes of the World Championship jersey after earning the top spot on the podium in the final six consecutive events of 2015.

For Rachel, it wasn’t until her third win of 2016, at her hometown World Cup stop in Fort William, where she tied the historic nine-win streak set by Anne-Caroline Chausson, that talk of breaking records began to rise from cautious whisper to real possibility.

Amidst talk of an historic streak, Rachel didn’t let the hype get to her leading up to the next World Cup event in Leogang. “You’re so focused on each race,” she explains, “you don’t even really think about that whole big picture.”

It was this focus, perhaps, that allowed her to take the record-breaking tenth consecutive win, then her eleventh in Lenzerheide, and twelfth and thirteenth in the final two races at Mont Sainte Anne and Vallnord.
Leading up the World Championships in Val di Sole, the possibility of a perfect season must have felt, for the first time, within reach. “I thought about it in the evenings quietly to myself,” she admits, “and what it would mean, if it was possible.”

So—what would it mean? For Rachel, it would mean accomplishing something that had never been accomplished before in men’s or women’s cycling. She’d earn a permanent place among the greatest athletes of all time. But for the sport of mountain biking, and for women’s mountain biking in particular, it would mean something altogether more significant. It would mean that millions around the world would see that a feat once deemed too difficult to achieve was actually achievable. It would mean the impossible was possible.

“Coming into World Champs,” she says, “I wanted to win so much.” And that’s exactly what she did. As the dust at the finish line cleared, the reality of Rachel’s accomplishment shined through a foaming spray of shaken champagne. She had achieved the unachievable.

A perfect season, Rachel knows, isn’t won by one person alone. It’s a victory, she explains, that belongs to all who have supported her. Everyone—her brothers and father, her managers and mechanics, her new team supporting her with a new race bike, her fans, and everyone who witnessed her historic perfect season—played a part in it. And that may be the most perfect part of all: quiet nights spent reflecting alone now give way to collective celebration and the satisfaction of a victory that has shown millions that they too can achieve the unachievable.

Perfect season. Perfect bike.

Only one mountain biker achieved the perfect World Cup season, and only one bike was with her on every drop, berm, and sprint for the line. See what makes Session the best downhill bike on the scene.

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When conquering gravity is a family value, new heights come naturally. Read more about how Rachel Atherton, the world’s most dominant mountain biker, is driven by family and focus.

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