Every year we come to Fort William and every year we are dished up a weekend full of twists and turns. One of the classic venues on the circuit and one of the tracks that bites back the hardest should you stray onto the wrong side of it, any rider who tames it is thrust into downhill immortality. This is easier said than done.
A scan of the forecast at any point this week painted only one picture, and it was of a particularly bleak one... We'd dodged a few weather bullets in recent years but this year we were hit by every single one. The moisture was only a trivial tribulation in comparison to what befell Tahnee Seagrave on her first practice run - the World Cup leader would crash hard, tearing her AC joint in the process and leaving her to sit on the sidelines and watch the number 1 slip from her grasp. She wasn't the only one to be chewed up by the granite boulders this weekend with names like Bruni, Hrastnik, Brayton, Iles, and Atherton all taking heavy hits.
The season opener in Maribor was a rough ride for several of the big hitters who'd look to hit the reset button in Fort Bill and start afresh. Rachel Atherton had a messy qualifying run which sat her back into the pack a little but come race day she'd got it dialed and laid her claim for the win, going into the hot seat with a sizeable margin. It looked like an ominous time for the rest of the girls at the top to match, none came close until fastest qualifier Tracey Hannah began setting the timing screens alight in the middle of the track. She'd eventually drift 1 and a half seconds back but it was a valiant effort nonetheless do try and dethrone the Queen of Fort Bill. The podium was rounded off by Nina Hoffmann, Marine Cabirou, and Veronika Widmann, the German taking her first podium in fine style.
The men's field was tightly bunched throughout, riders would come and go from the hot seat as the fastest time of the day got chipped away at. That was until Brosnan and subsequently Pierron, absolutely dismantled the previous benchmark, Amaury taking his insurmountable advantage to a monstrous 3 and a half seconds over Troy. Fastest qualifier Loris Vergier was pipped to second by less than a tenth of second, fine margins after 4 and a half minutes of racing. Finn Iles and Danny Hart rounded off the podium spots whilst Minnaar had to settle for sixth. After a topsy turvy opening two races, the leader's jersey changes hands in both the guys and girls, Atherton in place of Seagrave and Brosnan in place of Bruni.
One of the biggest shocks of the day came in the junior women as Vali Holl's reign came to a crashing end as American Anna Newkirk picked up her maiden World Cup win and now leads the series to boot. Thibaut Daprela took another win but was kept honest by two WC debutants, the UK's Luke Mumford in second and Canada's Patrick Laffey in third. Watch out for both of them in the remainder of the season.
: @natedh9 @davetrumpore @mdelorme @andy9 @rossbellphoto @FiveTen