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This interview is part of VitalMTB's Ultimate Guide to the 2013 Enduro World Series

One of mountain biking’s most recognized figures, from DH to dirtjumping, Dan Atherton brings his own unmistakable style and energy to everything he does. After recovering from a potentially career-ending injury, he has come back to mountain biking with renewed focus and drive. The Enduro World Series looks to present him with a perfect challenge! Dan rides for GT Factory Racing.

Dan Atherton by Sven Martin

Vital: We’re seeing lots of “Enduro” edits on the web lately, mostly they seem to be about riding DH on slightly shorter travel bikes. As a rider, how would you describe the relationship between DH and Enduro?

DA: For me that’s exactly what Enduro is – DH on small bikes! The difference is that Enduro is more accessible because the whole track doesn't have to be DH. All those potentially amazing DH tracks that you couldn't access before by uplift can now be accessed by pedaling up there! It’s DH in raw form!

Dan Atherton by Sven Martin

Vital: Do you feel that the overall level of risk is lower in Enduro? Can you win at 90%, or does it take full commitment into most of the lines? Looking at the highlight reels it looks pretty loose and fast out there…?

DA: World Series Enduro will definitely be flat out but for me in Enduro I’m riding as fast as I can go – whilst staying 100% in control.  It’s ride as hard as you can – within the limits of that control. In World Cup DH you need to push it that extra 5% where you are out of control for some parts of the course, it doesn't work that way in Enduro – it’s not just about 1 run,  it’s the guy who can go flat out over 6 stages without making any serious mistakes who’s going to win it.

Dan Atherton by Sven Martin

Vital: Should Enduro racing include uplifts from time to time, or should it be a strict pedal-up affair in your opinion?

DA: My favorite Enduro races are the ones that mix it up between ski-lifts and pedaling. Enduro is about accessing the most amazing riding in the world – however you do that.

Vital: Describe the mix between tech riding and fitness in your riding regime. If you HAD to choose between the 2, which one would it be for Enduro and why?

DA: I think that a lot of people will be surprised how technical Enduro stage racing is, of course you have to be fit but it’s technical ability that will ultimately win the race.

Vital: Do you feel Enduro is a valid career choice for young riders today? Can a rider come up and basically go straight to Enduro? Are there enough structures and sponsors available for someone who wants to focus purely on this discipline?

DA: I definitely think that Enduro is different from 4X in that it’s going to be around for a long time. It’s not a flash in the pan but if you are a young rider coming into the sport thinking about your career plan you've got it the wrong way round. Ride what excites you, ride what gets you out of bed in the morning to train. You can do whatever you want – you can come straight into Enduro, if anything I’d say it makes you more of an all-round rider because it’s such a great mix of all the other disciplines. My new team-mate Martin Maes has already set about proving that you can come straight into the sport aged 15 or 16 and compete with the best.

There seems to be an amazing level of energy from the organizers of the EWS and I think this will filter down over the next few years to the national and regional level. The sport has needed a World Series to clarify exactly what Enduro racing is. As for the sponsors and the structure available, I don’t think mountain biking ever struggles for sponsors.

Dan Atherton by Sven Martin

Vital: The UK is renowned for producing top-level DH riders despite (or maybe because of!) the sometimes “challenging” conditions back home – why do you think that is? And can we also expect to see the next generation of Enduro winners coming out of the UK?

DA: The UK has always had a really competitive race scene. And we've had guys like Steve Peat who are a huge inspiration for young riders, which helps a sport a lot. If anything the UK terrain lends itself more to Enduro than to DH – so yes, expect to see some great young Enduro riders coming through.

Vital: How did the recent developments regarding the UCI enforcing the “no sanctioned events” rule affect your plans? Are all the EWS events sanctioned? If not, you may eventually have to choose – what would your choice be, in that case?

DA: It did not affect my plans at all. Enduro isn’t a UCI sanctioned discipline and I’m not planning on riding any DH this season so I‘ve been able to choose to ride exactly what I want.

Vital: What are your objectives for the series?

DA: To win the series overall.

Vital: Hopefully you can still find the time for more crazy Dan Atherton digging projects – we have barely recovered from the Quarry edit, but we still want more!

DA: I’ve got to fit some racing in around the digging! There are some huge projects we’ve been working on in North Wales that are really exciting – I’ll never stop digging!

Dan and Gee Atherton hitting up the Quarry - it doesn't get much better than this.

Dan rides for GT Factory Racing.

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