30 years of Animal

Throwback Thursday interviews - catching up with the Athertons

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11 May
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Rachel, Dan & Gee Atherton, riding for Team Animal Commencal in 2007

Team Animal has been a core part of our story since the beginning. From the likes of Guy Cribb (the brand’s first ever rider) and the signing of a promising grom called Alan Stokes back in 1994, to the formation of some of the most iconic teams on the circuit—Animal Orange in 1999, The Bike Tour in 2002 and Team Animal Commencal in 2007, we’ve been stoked to collaborate with a serious amount of sporting talent over the years. We’ve sponsored riders across surf, MTB, snow and more, spotting natural flair and nurturing young guns up through the ranks. As we celebrate our 30 year milestone, we wanted to catch up with some of the Animal Team from back-in-the-day who helped to shape the brand over the years.

Reliving the epic days of the Athertons and Team Animal Commencal

The year is 2002 and Steve Kitchin, Animal’s team manager, has spotted a sibling threesome showing strong promise in the junior downhill MTB ranks. “Raw, talented and unpredictable,’ Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton were the perfect match for Animal. They signed as juniors and over the next decade took the team to a whole new level of international competition performance and freeride action, including the unforgettable Gee and Rachel World Championship double in 2008! In their own words, these are Dan, Gee and Rachel’s memories of their time with Animal; the craziest moments, career highs and most memorable trips.

Dan Atherton in the Animal Commencal team. Spain, circa 2007

Dan Atherton

Date signed with Animal? 2002, we were on Muddy Fox and pretty raw! Gee and Rach were racing Juniors still.

What was playing on the radio? It was all about long wave radio Atlantic 252 back then.

All the cool kids were wearing… Those horrible baggy jeans!

The bike to ride was? Intense M1

Favourite-ever piece of Animal gear? The watch strap of course, where it all started!

Most memorable Animal trip? First trip we took the big Animal lorry down to France. I drove out of Portsmouth at rush hour and then all the way to the Megavalanche in France. When we got there people were asking when I took my 7.5 tonne licence! It turns out we were way too young to be driving the lorry and Tim Ponting had to come out to the rescue.

Best teammate? Steve Geall, pretty amazing rider all round.

Teammate with the most annoying habit? Robin Kitchin, more than one!

Behind the scenes antics that we never heard about? Those usually involved Robin Kitchin’s driving, ripping off different parts of the lorry at service stations.

Animal career highlight? My first National win meant a lot to me.

What the brand means to you? For us it was our roots. I guess it represents support in our younger years, there was never any pressure on results or media, it was all about the riders and supporting them in every way possible.

Dan Atherton, photo by Matt Delorme

Image credit: Matt Delorme

Gee Atherton in the Animal Commencal team. Circa 2007

Gee Atherton

Date signed with Animal? 2002, we were on Muddy Fox and tearing up the Dragon Downhill scene. Me and Rach were racing Juniors still, Athy was in his second year of Elite I think.

What was playing on the radio? Nelly and Eminem.

All the cool kids were wearing… Too big rapper clothes. I remember going to Animal HQ before my first photo shoot and picking out all these cool clothes. It was awesome.

The bike to ride was? Intense M1

Favourite-ever piece of Animal gear? Our first race strip. Every year we had the coolest kit. We went from being three scruffy kids to looking like professional athletes. It wasn’t just the kit, the bike and race truck looked just as smart.

Gee Atherton Animal Commencal 2007 kit

Gee’s MTB kit, 2007

The Animal Commencal 2007 team van

Team van design, 2007

Most memorable Animal trip? Oh god all of them; we were so young and clueless! Animal road trip to the South of France with Robin Kitchin and Steve Geall stands out!

Best teammate? Steve Geall.

Teammate with the most annoying habit? Robin Kitchin (all driving related!)

Behind the scenes antics that we never heard about? Stopping off in all kinds of random places to build kickers for the DH bikes.

Animal career highlight? Double World Champs with Rach in 2008—that was amazing.

What the brand means to you? It was our youth. They supported us in every way possible, no pressure just 100% belief. And a lot of fun!

Gee Atherton, photo by Sven Martin

Image credit: Sven Martin

Rachel Atherton in the Animal Commencal team. Circa 2007

Rachel Atherton

Date signed with Animal? 2002, I was only 14! Can you imagine how stoked we all were?

What was playing on the radio? It was all about Britney and Christina Aguilera. I still like to play a bit of Britney in the pits on race weekend!

All the cool kids were wearing… Juicy Couture–those horrible velour tracksuits. Meanwhile, I was still mainly rocking the boys’ cast-offs, probably a lucky escape!

The bike to ride was? My Muddy Fox

Favourite-ever piece of Animal gear? My 2008 race kit.

Rachel Atherton world champion kit with the Animal Commencal team in 2008

Rach’s 2008 World Champ race kit

Most memorable Animal trip? I remember being in Canada when I was 15. I was already pretty stoked just to be there. Then when I found out Animal were taking us up in a helicopter to take photos on my bike. Wow! One of those photos ended up on a notebook in WH Smiths!

Best teammate? Steve Kitchin, he really made us feel like part of the Animal family.

Teammate with the most annoying habit? Gee Atherton of course, and I’m stuck with him!

Behind the scenes antics that we never heard about? Mostly driving dramas, with Gee and Dan, or Robin Kitchin.

Animal career highlight? Standing on the podium with Gee and Dan in Andorra 2008 when we all won our respective World Cups, that was mind-blowing. It felt amazing to be wearing Animal that day, they’d supported us all the way from being three kids, always believing in us.

What the brand means to you? Animal will always have a huge place in my heart. They took our family to their hearts and supported us and believed in us 100%. They saw the potential in three untrained teenagers and helped us grow into world-beating professional athletes and for that they will always have our gratitude.

Rachel Atherton, photo by Sven Martin

Image credit: Sven Martin

The Athertons were always up for bringing some offbeat humour to their awe-inspiring riding. Check out one of our favourite early films with them, featuring the unforgettable ‘Farmer Jack’!

Discover more of the Animal history-makers over the last three decades in The Animal Story.

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