Mountain biking’s royal family rate Queenstown as the top Southern Hemisphere training spot.
Top pro riders Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton are here for two-months’ training until April when the Northern Hemisphere biking circuit kicks off.
The talented trio – riding the international circuit since their teens and who have a raft of major titles between them – are big Queenstown fans.
“It’s such a perfect place,” Rachel says.
Gee dragged his sports star siblings here after filming a chunk of adventure bike flick Follow Me on local terrain in January last year.
“I saw how good it was and how much potential it had for us to come for pre-season training with the Skyline gondola opening up to bikes,” Gee says.
On top of that, they’ve been hitting the Lakes Leisure gym, going for road rides and then hitting the downhill or cross-country trails.
“It’s got everything we need here all in one place,” Gee states.
The threesome headed to the resort after a month of cycling in California.
Now they’re talking about skipping that leg in the future since they peg Queenstown as the ideal biking destination Down Under.
Dan: “I think the gondola opening is the main pull really. It’s so easy just to be able to bang out some runs without having to pack the truck and go out for a big expedition.”
Rachel adds: “It’s awesome, it’s better than we hoped really.”
The Athertons think the resort has the potential to equal Canada’s mountain biking mecca Whistler, but Rachel warns having medical staff on Ben Lomond is crucial.
“If they’re opening the gondola and stuff, and they haven’t got a quad or anything like that … it’s pretty important,” she says.
She reckons that as Queenstown becomes more popular, numbers on the gondola could become an issue.
While here, the Athertons will also be snapped for their reality TV series, The Atherton Project.
And do the siblings ever get sick of training and living together?
Rachel: “Every day.”
But they claim having common goals makes things easier.
Dan, who broke a neck disc last July, aims to podium again this season, Rachel wants the World Cup title after being injured and unable to compete for the past two years and Gee wants to retain top spot in the sport.
“Once you’ve got that World Cup championship title, you’re a bit of a sitting duck,” Gee says.