Rachel Atherton’s perfect 2016 season, which saw her win all seven rounds of the UCI Downhill World Cup – something no cyclist, male or female, had ever achieved before – as well as the World Championship, has seen her crowned Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year.
The 29-year-old from Wiltshire joined the likes of eight-time Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt and gymnast Simone Biles, winner of four gold medals in Rio last summer, in having her achievements recognised at the Laureus Sports Awards 2017 in Monaco last night.
While Bolt and Biles were on the Cote d’Azur to collect their respective awards for Sportsman and Sportswomen of the year., Atherton was absent, focusing instead on her preparations for the coming season as she explained in a post on Instagram.
Hardest decision ever to not attend the @laureussport Awards tonight in Monaco - a room full of the most talented athletes alive celebrating sport & the power of sport to do good!!! But I decided to stay in America on our training camp & make the gains that make winning possible - however I am excited to watch the show unfold and ypu can too on Facebook.com/LaureusSportforGood The Nominees for the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award are: Rachel Atherton, Pedro Barros, John John Florence, Chloe Kim, Kelly Sildaru and Tyler Wright! #Laureus17 #atherton #barros #florence #kim #sildaru #wright
She was up against John John Florence and Tyler Wright, respectively the reigning men’s and women’s World Surfing League champions, skateboarder Pedro Barros, snowboarder Chloe Kim, and freestyle skier Kelly Sidaru, at 13 the youngest ever X-Games gold medallist.
Atherton – who to the dismay of the British mountain biking community missed out on a BBC Sports Personality of the Year nomination last year, most likely since Downhill is not an Olympic discipline – was following proceedings via a Facebook Live feed, and made her acceptance speech via videolink.
— #Laureus17 (@LaureusSport) 14 February 2017
British Cycling president Bob Howden said: “In what has been yet another remarkable year for Rachel, it’s fitting that she has been awarded the Laureus Action Sportsperson of the Year award.
"Her unprecedented results on the bike have made Rachel a true inspiration to many and her achievements are greatly valued by British Cycling.”
She wasn’t the only British winner last night, with Leicester City Football Club scooping the Spirit of Sport award for their shock Premier League win last season under manager Claudio Ranieri.
The Foxes weren’t nominated in the Team of the Year category, which was won by the Chicago Cubs, who last summer ended a 108-year drought by winning baseball’s World Series, winning the last three games to become the first side to overcome a 3-1 deficit in nearly four decades.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.