Once again Fort William put on a race for the record books. A race full of drama and not without a few cruel twists of fate just to spice things up a bit. It was a day that started full of disappointment for some, ended in elation for others, and was nail-biting every moment in between; the record crowds certainly got their money's worth.
Matt Walker would get the crowd on their feet early with a win in the juniors ahead of Finn Iles by a massive margin of more than five seconds. But with one win for Great Britain already in the bag the celebrations were cut short as word spread through the paddock that Rachel Atherton had sustained a dislocated shoulder during her final training run. Just like that, the fairy tale that has been Rachel's unbeaten streak came to an end without her even being able to take to the track and put up a fight. While other British favorites Tahnee Seagrave and Manon Carpenter faltered, it would be Tracey Hannah who absolutely dominated in Rachel's absence. Where many of the women struggled in the muddy woods, Tracey was able to avoid getting bogged down to extend her margin of victory to a whopping ten seconds.
For the men it would be a battle of old-school versus new as the new breed of 29" wheeled machines were looking to prove they were worth the hype, and the 27.5 crowd was determined not to give an inch (and a half). As light rain began to fall on the final five or so riders there was a bit a flashback to the first round in Lourdes, but luckily it only had a mild effect on the outcome. Most notably, Aaron Gwin would slide out on a relatively easy section of track near the bottom to lose valuable time. Ready to pounce on Gwin's mistake would be the Aussie Jack Moir who would steamroll his big-wheeled Intense into the top spot and his first ever podium with only two riders to go. As Vergier and Minnaar left the gate the rain picked up, and while Vergier was a bit off the pace, it was Minnaar who looked to be gaining everywhere. The now visibly slick track didn't faze him as he kept things smooth and put the power down to take an unprecedented third win in a row in Fort William.
In the end it would be an old-school rider on a new-school bike in the worst possible conditions who would continue to prove why he is currently considered the greatest downhill racer of all time. Greg Minnaar has raced gearboxes, single pivots, 26" wheels, 27.5" wheels and now 29" wheels to victory here on the slopes of Fort William in a career well into its second decade.
Thank you, Greg, for making this twentieth World Cup win one to remember.