It wasn’t a big shock to see Rachel Atherton win another World Cup Downhill this past weekend on her Trek Factory Racing Session Team Issue RSL. In fact it was her 10th consecutive World Cup DH win setting a new record. We were in Leogang checking up on what is new in the behind the scenes pits at the top level of the sport and got a little insight into Rachel’s personal setup. It was a pretty muddy course in the days leading up to the final, and still on the morning of the race the pros were trying to find the best way to slide down the technical course…
We took a look at Rachel Atherton’s GT Fury World Cup last season, and much like that bike she had a fairly stock frame, suspension, and fork setup this time around too. A few things have changed with the Atherton Racing Team’s switch to Trek, but some have stayed the same like the Fox 40 FLOAT FIT4 fork and Fox DHX2 shocks, and Shimano Saint groupset.
Like this time last year, Rachel is still ranked number 1 in the Women’s UCI DH, and with such consistency has clearly earned that number plate on her Session. She does however keep a fairly stock setup and besides the Trek Women’s team blue, most of her bike can be bought of the shelf by aspiring DHers. Just add your own name decal to the toptube.
One plus of being a pro downhiller is that you get to race with fresh bearings. One negative of being a pro DH mechanic, when conditions are as wet and sloppy as they were in Leogang over the past few days, you have to swap out things like Saint bottom brackets before almost every race. There was also a whole lot of suspension component rebuilding going on, and everyone got freshly bled brakes for race day. While Rachel got a new BB, she stuck with the same cranks she’s been running all season, just nicely cleaned up. With all the mud she rides through and moving around on her Crank Brothers Mallet DH Race, her cranks get scuffed up pretty good and quick, but the Saints are still good to go.
Rachel races a broken apart and reconfigured cassette spaced out for the 10 speed Saint drivetrain but with just 8 cogs and some extra spacers behind the cassette. She was running what looked to be a 12-28 to give reasonably tight spacing while keeping the derailleur away from her spokes. It is curious work in the Atherton Racing pit, as her brother Gee was racing a similar pared down cassette, but for him he had just 6 cogs from and around a 12-22? configuration.
Since last DH season, Shimano introduced the new Pro Tharsis 9.8 DH cockpit group, so the Athertons no longer ride their signature group but get and update nonetheless. Hidden under that stem is one custom bit on Rachel’s bike. She was riding a custom machined upper headset cap that dropped in a Cane Creek bearing, but offset it farther forward for a longer front end by a few mm. We’d seen the same thing from the Santa Cruz Syndicate and Madison Saracen Team before, but this is maybe interesting as Cane Creek has been offering the adjustable angle Angleset for sometime, but not a simple offset version.
Also a bit of pro setup were the epoxied on finned grips. Her brothers had been racing these grips before, wired-on; but now Rachel makes the switch too with them glued fast. Her mechanic said it was possible to get them off without destroying the bar. But with plenty of bars in the truck, they were more likely to swap in a new bar if a grip got trashed.
We also saw this brass rear brake damper on Trek World Racing George Brannigan’s Session last season. With Rachel preferring the big 203mm rotors in back, this is said to help keep vibration in check over that long IS adapter. On a side note, as a show of a true professional, Rachel’s mechanic had her practice and qualifying time starts written on his hand so he knew when to have her bikes prepped and ready to roll.
Rachel’s Session was rolling on Bontrager’s most aggressive DH tire for the weekend of racing. The 27.5 x 2.5″ G5 Team Issue tires have big meaty blocks that were definitely packing up with mud on the wettest sections of the course. But with gravelly hardpack sections to clear the tread they seemed to work out for her. Wheel wise, her whole team was rolling on unmarked aluminum wheels. They look very much like the same Stan’s Flow EXs that the siblings raced last year, but interestingly not the newer Stan’s carbon rims that they helped develop.