- Bike Checks
GT Factory Racing is built around downhill's royal family, the Atherton siblings (Dan, Gee, and Rachel). All individual achievers at the very highest level of the sport, they also rewrote the history books with a legendary family triple win at the Andorra UCI World Cup event in 2008 - Gee and Rachel both took wins in the downhill, with brother Dan claiming top box in the 4X. The Athertons joined GT Factory Racing in 2012, and teamed up with Marc Beaumont who was already on the GT squad. For 2013, young guns Taylor Vernon (DH) and Martin Maes (Enduro) join the team, as Dan focuses 100% on the inaugural Enduro World Series. Check out the GT riders and their rides below!
Gee Atherton, Rachel Atherton, and Marc Beaumont remain on the DH roster for 2013 and will be taking 16-yr old Taylor Vernon under their wings (GT pun intended) as well.
Gee Atherton - @gee_atherton on Twitter / Gee Atherton on Facebook
Gee Atherton is one of the most dominant and consistent riders of his generation. He took his first UCI World Cup DH win in 2004 in Schladming, and has added 5 more wins since then. He won the 2008 World Championship title in Val di Sole, Italy, and finally added the overall World Cup title to his collection in 2010 after a thrilling season-long battle with Greg Minnaar that went right down to the wire, ending with Gee beating Greg by the thinnest of margins.
Far from "just" a racer, Gee has incredible bike skills, with commitment and courage to match. He's been riding the Red Bull Rampage since 2004, and has finished 2nd twice. His 2010 run was nothing short of spectacular, bringing speed and style together over some of the biggest features on the mountain, culminating with the huge air to wallride that caused a lot of trouble for other riders that year.
For 2013, Gee shows no signs of slowing down. With Gwin dominating the World Cup series overall for the last 2 seasons, and with new competition from the young guns, Gee will be more motivated than ever to get back to the top of his game. He has the speed, skill, and fitness to win on any track, but he'll be particularly stoked to see Fort William, Val di Sole, and Andorra on this year's schedule, having won on all of those tracks in past editions. He also finished 4th in Pietermaritzburg in 2012, only 1.3 seconds off Minnaar's winning time - you can bet he'll have been thinking about 2013 Worlds during those long off-season gym hours...
Marc Beaumont - @SluggerBeaumont on Twitter / marc.beaumont.7796 on Facebook
Marc "Slugger" Beaumont started racing in 1997, at the tender age of 13, and has been moving up through the ranks in parallel with Gee ever since. 2013 will be Marc's fifth season on GT. Known for his serious attitude towards training and his professionalism, Marc also has the speed to compete with the very best - a win in Vigo in 2007 (albeit aided by weather) followed by another one in Val di Sole in 2010 prove that point emphatically.
Marc was the British National Champion in 2006 and 2007, and won the overall British Downhill Series title in 2007 and 2010. Always a regular top ten finisher through the years, 2012 saw him finish in 13th position overall in the World Cup, which will feel like an underachievement to Marc - look out for him to hit 2013 with a desire to do better. The 2013 venues will be a mixed bag for Marc, Val di Sole will bring back positive vibes, while Fort William typically resists his assaults. As we write these lines, Marc just finished 5th in the BDS Round 2 at Fort William, only 1.6 seconds off the pace set by Danny Hart in a stacked field that looked more like a World Cup than anything else, so maybe the Fort will be good to Marc in 2013.
Rachel Atherton - @rachelatherton on Twitter / Rachel Atherton on Facebook
Rachel was junior World Downhill Champion in 2005, and she hasn't really slowed down since. As an integral part of Atherton Racing (alongside brothers Dan and Gee), she has racked up 2 Senior World Champion titles, 2 overall Senior World Cup titles, and has been British Champion twice as well. After an accident on her road bike (involving a truck!) in 2009, she has struggled with recovery and has gone under the knife on several occasions to remedy her injuries. Her dedication and discipline have seen her bounce back every time to reclaim her spot at the top.
If you're looking for a weakness in her game, you'll be looking for a long time. Her greatest nemesis may be herself. She has been known to push herself and her riding too hard, but when she holds it together, she is one of the absolute top elite women riders on tour - bike skills and commitment to match the boys, yet proud of being a "girly girl."
2012 was a great year for Rachel, she capped off an impressive season with a win at Hafjell to take the overall World Cup title, despite having sat out the first round in Pietermaritzburg due to injury rehab. With a clean bill of health throughout this off-season, she has to be considered one of the outright favorites to take it all this year. We wouldn't bet against Rachel in the World Cup overall nor at World Champs in Pietermaritzburg. She may also hold the world record for the most 2nd place finishes in a World Cup at Fort William, so look out for her to pull something special there in June to finally get on top of that particular podium.
Taylor Vernon - @TaylorVernon67 on Twitter / taylorvernon67 on Facebook
Taylor Vernon is entering his first year as a junior with a factory ride from GT - that should tell you everything you need to know about him. In addition to winning 3 out of 6 BDS races to take the overall title in 2012, he also had a win at the IXS European Cup stop at Innerleithen and was National Champion at Moelfre.
Taylor has started 2013 where he left off in 2012 - a win at the first round of the 2013 BDS in Combe Sydenham followed by a 2nd place in round 2 in Fort William shows that he is on pace coming into the season. With the support and mentoring available to him on GT Factory Racing in addition to his speed and talent, look for Taylor to be one of the serious junior contestants on the World Cup in 2013.
Dan Atherton enters his 2nd season with full-time Enduro focus, and is joined for 2013 by young gun Martin Maes, who at only 15 was already turning heads on the world Enduro stage in 2012.
Dan Atherton - @Dan_Atherton on Twitter / Dan Atherton on Facebook
Dan Atherton is one of the best bike riders in the world, full stop. Add to that incredible discipline for training as well as extra-ordinary trail-building skills and it's not hard to see why Dan is such a popular rider. As the oldest sibling in the Atherton clan, Dan is responsible for getting them all in to the sport, and he still acts as a mentor to the others in many ways. His riding career has seen him on podiums in several gravity disciplines, the highlight probably being a World Cup win in 4X in 2008 in Andorra.
Dan had a major riding accident in 2010, which saw him break his C1 vertebrae. Recovery was difficult both physically and mentally, but Dan has come back to the sport with renewed focus and energy, and taking on the Enduro World Series has provided him with just the kind of new challenge he needs. With incredible bike skills and fitness, Dan will be a major threat on the EWS tour in 2013. He earned a 5th place in the inaugural race in the series on May 19, only 38 seconds off the pace in five stages that totaled over 20 minutes of total racing time, showing that Dan is right up there with Enduro's elite. Additionally, he has already proven that he can succeed against the best, winning the prestigious final race in the Superenduro series in Finale Ligure in 2012. Find out what makes Dan tick in Clay Porter's Four by Three (below), and you can also catch an interview with Dan from Vital's Ultimate Guide to the 2013 Enduro World Series.
And if you thought a few injuries would slow Dan down...think again:
Martin Maes - @AthertonRacing covers him on Twitter / Martin Maes on Facebook
5th at the Enduro of Nations at Sauze d'Oulx (1 spot behind Dan Atherton), 4th in Valloire, 13th at the Mountain of Hell...Martin's 2012 results would make many an Enduro racer proud, and considering he just turned 16, they are more than extra-ordinary. This explains why GT Factory Racing and the Athertons felt like they should invest in Martin, and provide him with a full factory ride for 2013. That has already proven to be a smart decision, as Martin has just opened his 2013 EWS account with a fabulous 4th place (1 place ahead of teammate Dan) at round 1 in Punta Ala. He did this on flat pedals and 26-inch wheels, too.
Having grown up in a family of bike racers (Martin's father holds 23 Belgian national titles in BMX, Downhill, and Dual Slalom, and Trials), Martin picked up the necessary bike skills at an early age. With support from a team like GT, the future is certainly looking bright. With the 16-year old's speed and stamina showing, he is already an Enduro World Series podium contender!
GT were the first large company to take a carbon bike DH racing back in the days of the LTS and Lobo. Several iterations later, the Carbon GT Fury has evolved into a refined and efficient race weapon, ridden by Gee, Rachel, and Marc to much success in past years.
The downhill bikes have been built around FOX suspension, with Shimano on drivetrain and braking duty. The Atherton's have their own PRO line of components made by Shimano for cockpit and saddle setup. Continental helps the team keep the rubber side down, while Hope and Stan's NoTubes complete the package.
Bringing a team like the Athertons onboard will obviously help a company push its development forward, and it's no different for GT. We've seen a few early shots of a new prototype DH frame (as well as a new Enduro frame, see below), so expect to see a couple of brand new bikes introduced at some point in 2013:
Dan has been riding a GT Force LE (see the Vital Test Session report HERE) for most Enduro races so far, with a build kit based on the same component brands as the DH bikes (above). However, Dan raced the EWS Round 1 in Punta Ala on a brand new Enduro prototype frame, with 650b wheels (while teammate Martin was still on the regular Force LE for this race), so expect lots of new bike related news on the Enduro side of the house as well.