As one of the longest-standing World Cup venues, we have seen plenty of both uplifting and disheartening events from the slopes of Aonach Mòr. As we're missing out on the annual pilgrimage to Fort William this weekend, we have looked back at the past 18 years of racing at Fort Bill for 10 of the biggest moments.
Chris Kovarik’s 2002 Demolition
Chris Kovarik's 2002 race run from Fort William is arguably one of the most iconic moments in mountain bike racing history. For 2002, the World Cup circuit arrived at Fort William for the first time and with this, the fresh sections of track were quickly ripped up by the riders and the weather didn't help matters as it was typical Scottish conditions. Despite this adversity, Kovarik's 14-second win on the fresh Fort William course sits as one of the biggest winning margins in the sport's history.
Steve Peat's 2005 win
'The Greatest Show on Earth' is how Dirt magazine described Fort William's World Cup in 2005 and it still holds up today as one of the greatest downhill races of all time. This would be Peaty's fourth visit to Fort William as a racer, but he had actually been journeying up to the Scottish Highlands all his life to watch his father compete in the Scottish Six Day Trials. As a rider, Peat had been on the podium twice before but never made the top step.
He qualified fastest, which no doubt added even more pressure to his weekend, but he cooly and calmly delivered when it mattered, winning by more than 2 seconds from his future teammates Greg Minnaar and Nathan Rennie. It was a momentous occasion - a British rider on a British bike winning on British soil. The crowd went predictably insane as you can see from this fan cam below:
Seventh Heaven for Greg Minnaar in 2017
Although it lies 14,000km from his home in South Africa, Fort WIlliam might as well be a back yard for Greg Minnaar, such is the success he's enjoyed there. In 2017, the South African rider managed to take his 7th win at the Scottish track after expertly working his way through the wood section that had caught so many other riders out both in practice and on race day. Not only did he take the win but it was a comfortable run with a margin of nearly three seconds back to Jack Moir and nearly another second back to Aaron Gwin. The race not only marked seven wins at Fort William for Greg but it was his third win in a row at the venue and it was the first World Cup win for 29" DH bikes.
Rachel Atherton overcoming adversity at Fort William
Rachel Atherton may have managed twelve top-three finishes at Fort William but all these good results do sometimes lead to a spot of bad luck. In 2019, Rachel snapped her chain just out of the gate. Despite riding with no chain she was still in touch as she made her way down the course. Sadly a crash would put her out of contention for the win but she still managed to take third place only nine seconds behind Tahnee Seagrave in first.
Two years earlier in the tough woods section, Rachel crashed heading off a drop and ended up dislocating her shoulder. Luckily she was able to get the shoulder popped back in at the side of the trail and could make her own way back to the bottom of the hill.
A tribute to Stevie Smith
After the news of Steve Smith's tragic passing and during the outpouring of love and gratitude for Stevie, one Pinkbike user Hwulex
put out a request to host a memorial run for Stevie at the following World Cup. After gaining a lot of momentum online it was taken up by Red Bull and the UCI. A ghost run was held in honour of the Canadian rider for all of the riding community to pay their respects to Stevie in one solitary moment.
During training, the riders also took to the track forming one long train as they all hit the Fort William track at once in memory of Stevie.
Troy Brosnan’s first elite win in 2014
Amaury Pierron may have joined the exclusive club of first elite wins at Fort William in 2018 but back in 2014 Troy Brosnan became the first rider to achieve this feat after an incredible run saw him best the likes of Sam Hill and Danny Hart for the top step of the podium by 1.659 seconds. Troy may have only managed one more win after this race but his incredibly consistent results have always placed him at the top of the sport and since 2014 he has never placed outside the top six at the Fort.
The Infamous 2017 Woods
Over the 18 years that World Cup racing has been heading to Fort William we have seen plenty of carnage and tough line choices for riders but the new woods section in 2017 offered an extremely tough challenge for the riders. It soon became clear this was going to be the biggest challenge of the weekend as riders struggled to even get through the section clean. By race day and after a few changes by the track team it was slightly easier but many riders still struggled to come through it cleanly. The next year the whole trail had been dug up and replace with a smoothed out rock section.
Ben Cathro and Chris Hutchens Turning Up to Race With Skinsuits in 2008
By far the most controversial event to happen at Fort William was the use of skinsuits in 2008. At the time both Ben Cathro and Chris Hutchens were riding for the Mojo Suspension racing team and for the race at Fort William they turned up to qualifying and race day in PVC-coated Lycra skinsuits. The controversial skinsuits may have looked very odd but there is no denying they were fast as both Ben and Chris posted the best results of their careers with an 8th and 17th place respectively. In the months following the Fort William race, the UCI introduced a new rule seeing skinsuits and 'tight-fitting clothing' banned from racing. In our article about lifting the skinsuit rule
from 2018 Ben Cathro said:
Sam Hill's 2007 World Championships Win
Sam Hill, an Iron Horse Sunday and Fort William. It's hard to think of a more iconic combination as Sam Hill took his second World Championship title in a row on the slopes of Aonach Mòr in 2007. Once again flat pedals were victorious in Fort William as Sam secured his second Elite World Champs title and his second in a row win at Fort William after he won by 1.26 seconds in 2006.
Rachel and Gee Secure a Double Win for the Athertons in 2013
A double World Cup win for the Athertons may have happened more than once in their careers but it has never been a bigger moment than when both Gee and Rachel managed to take the top step of the podium on home soil. In the men's racing, Gee just about took the win over Brook Macdonald by 1.142 seconds and Rachel managed to achieve a huge winning margin of over ten seconds on Manon Carpenter.