Interviews and images by Matt Rousu

Teagan Atherstone (18) and Aaron Gungl (17) have a a few things in common; they are both from the small town of Bright in Victoria’s North-East, both placed 2nd at the 2018 National Championships and both have been selected to represent Australia at the 2018 Mountain Bike World Championships held in Switzerland this September. Oh, and both of them are genuinely really nice people to be around.

Although this remarkable situation is hard to imagine, the similarities pretty much stop there. Teagan spends most of her time climbing hills on her super light-weight XC bike where as Aaron spends most of his time bombing down the steepest hills he can find on his Downhill bike. Sure Teagan does ride down hills and Aaron does actually pedal his bike sometimes, but the training, preparation and perception of their chosen area of mountain biking is vastly different.

I wanted to find out how two young, talented athletes who are separated by 4 months in age and live 4km away from each other can end up being apart of the 16 person junior team to be selected for the World Championships. I caught up with Teagan in Bright and chatted with Aaron who is already in Europe ahead of the big event in 2 months time.

What do you know about Teagan Atherstone?

First things first. How did you get into mountain biking?

Well, my Dad started mountain biking a while ago and one day when I was about 10 we rocked up to this race that he had entered. The organisers announced that there was a kids race but I didn’t have a bike so they ran around the carpark looking for a bike and a helmet, they chucked me on this random bike and I went in the race and won it! It felt pretty good winning against all these kids dressed up in lycra. I’d say that was my first actual experience with a mountain bike…

It seems like your family has been doing stuff in the outdoors for ever, so did mountain biking just evolve from that or where there any other sports that you were drawn to?

Mum and Dad both worked for OEG (Outdoor Education Group), so we were always kayaking, rafting, hiking and skiing. I did a bit of ski racing but mountain biking was the best because I could do it by myself and we didn’t have to travel anywhere. When we first moved to Bright it was great, there was a group of about 10-15 people that went out every Tuesday night, we would jump through puddles and see who could make the biggest splash, it was just a lot of fun.

Did you continue racing straight away or did you want to just ride and have fun?

Well, my first real mountain bike ride was a race so I pretty much just kept going in races. A Bright RAMBO (Riverina Alpine Mountain Bike Open) was my first big race, it was really muddy but really fun with heaps of puddles to jump in. Then an Inter-school mountain bike round came to Albury, so I raced that and won which qualified me for the school state championships, which I also went on to win! So I pretty much kept racing (laughter).