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A few years ago, Rachel Atherton moved to the small Welsh town of Machynlleth. She fell in love with the land and the people—and promptly won two consecutive world mountain bike championships.

Rachel is confident that her new home contributed to her victories, as she found inspiration in support from the community. It’s proof that sometimes where you are is just as important as where you’re going.

The best mountain biker of her generation finds a home, and then success. Hidden amongst the rolling Welsh countryside is the sleepy town of Machynlleth. The town, built upon traditions stretching back centuries, was the ancient capital of Wales. But nestled in the Dyfi valley, a hilly and wild forested terrain, Machynlleth found itself inconveniently situated for the growth of modern industry.

A few years ago, enterprising trail builders began reshaping the unkempt terrain, bringing with them a completely unexpected and decidedly twenty-first century industry: mountain biking. One of these trail builders, Dan Atherton, brought along his sister, Rachel, who immediately fell in love with the area. She decided to stay. And then won two consecutive world mountain bike championships.

What Rachel found was a community in search of a new identity. Machynlleth is a place that embraced change and completely resurrected itself as a landmark for those who love the outdoors. “I don’t think it can be any coincidence that I moved here and then had the best two race seasons of my entire career. I think it was the feeling of contentment and that the community has my back,” she says. “And riding gnarly-ass stuff”.

And while the land and the people have given to Rachel, her success on the world stage has given something back to the Dyfi valley in the form of more and more women descending upon the trails. Brother Dan reflects on Rachel’s impact, “Having Rach in the area has inspired a lot of girls to come out and ride. There’s more and more women riding. And a lot of it has to do with her.” As Rachel tells it, “Dyfi is just better with bikes. It gives people a reason to connect with each other. It pulls people from all different walks of life together.” And if there’s one thing this world needs more of today, it’s exactly what Dyfi has discovered.

Rachel can be found on Instagram at @rachybox.

Wed 29th Aug, 2018 @ 6:30 am

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