Rachel Atherton: Downhill mountain biking booming despite no Olympic place

By Alex BysouthBBC Sport
Rachel Atherton
Rachel Atherton has won 28 World Cup races

Downhill mountain biking should be considered for Olympic recognition, says Britain's four-time World Cup champion Rachel Atherton.

British riders occupied the top three spots in last year's women's World Cup - success Atherton believes has helped encourage participation in the sport.

But the 28-year-old, who races in Scotland this weekend, says "everyone dreams of being an Olympic champion".

"It's everything an Olympic sport should be," Atherton told BBC Sport.

BMX racing became an Olympic sport for the 2008 Games in Beijing, and Atherton suggested that downhill mountain biking would benefit from inclusion.

She said: "I think it would be amazing. Being in the Olympics would change the sport. We saw it in BMX. It changes the way the sport is run."

Atherton says it would take pressure on the International Olympic Committee from top riders to earn the sport a place at the Games.

In 2014, her brother Gee suggested it should be part of the Winter Olympics. But Atherton is confident, even without Olympic participation, that the sport is "booming" in the UK.

The Trek Factory rider will line up against British rivals Manon Carpenter and Tahnee Seagrave this weekend for the third stage of this year's World Cup at Fort William, a venue she feels shows downhill mountain biking's popularity.

"British downhill riding is in a really good place at the minute and it's amazing to see," added Atherton, who won the opening two World Cup stages.

"The UK has got some amazing venues and really good places to ride. At Fort William, you see people with their kids, all on their bikes and they know all the riders. It's awesome."