Photo Gallery: Fort William World Cup Track Walk

Jun 1, 2018
by Dave Trumpore  



If there's one question that could be asked of the first two World Cup DH rounds this season, it would be "where's the dirt?". With the opening round in Croatia being contested almost entirely on a surface of boulders, the racers find themselves facing similar conditions once again in Fort William. Though there seems to be a lot more speed and flow on offer on the slopes surrounding Ben Nevis, the surface is still composed overwhelmingly of rock. The tried and true track, well in its teenage years at this point, has been relatively unchanged for the 2018 rendition though as always it seems the rocks have gotten bigger and the dirt between them more scarce. Really, the only change of note would be to last year's controversial wooded section. What was a messy rutted bog that ruined many a race run and angered a large mob on the internet, has been changed into, you guessed it, one giant rock garden. Where there once was proper brown dirt in Fort William, there is now rock arranged in a fashion that would make the road builders on Roman times envious. Are we seeing a new trend in DH tracks perhaps?

With nothing drastically new there would be little reason to assume the favorites from last year are sure to be the favorites once again in 2018. No one more so than Greg Minnaar who has won here the past three years in a row. That theory held true of course until about 24 hours ago when it was revealed that Minnaar would be sidelined this week with a fractured elbow. Of course, behind Greg and ready to take advantage of his absence will be a familiar cast that includes Aaron Gwin, Troy Brosnan, Danny Hart and so on. As well as some motivated riders who showed promise at the opening round such as Luca Shaw and of course Brook Macdonald, who is back from the broken collarbone he suffered in Croatia. For the ladies, it would usually be Rachel Atherton as almost a guarantee, but her injury here last year opened the door for her rivals to taste victory. The current form of the top ladies has elevated the game to make it anyone's race. Tracey Hannah took top honors last year and will be looking for redemption after crashing in Croatia, and Myriam Nicole will want to carry on with the momentum of her opening round win. Then there's Rachel Atherton and Tahnee Seagrave who will have the home crowd pushing then down the hill all weekend long. Regardless of who you put your money on, it's sure to be a nail bitter of a race in all categories.

Right now conditions look dry and loose and if the weather holds we will be in for an amazing weekend of racing in the Scottish Highlands. However, if years past are an indication, anything can and likely will happen, and the riders who can adapt to rapid changes in conditions will always fare best at the Fort.

Crank up those compression settings and prepare to hold on for a wild ride. The Fort William World Cup is about to get underway.

Vaux-haulin ass all the way to Fort William.
Vaux-haulin' ass all the way to Fort William.

Ben Nevis the tallest mountain in Scotland looms large above the village of Fort William.
Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland looms large above the village of Fort William.

Tahnee and Kaos Seagrave definilty have the best rider mural at the entrance to their pits this weekend.
Tahnee and Kaos Seagrave definitely have the best rider mural at the entrance to their pits this weekend.

Just don t piss off the Bulldog alright It won t go well.
After 5 weeks off the DH bike following his broken collarbone in Croatia, Brook Macdonald is back at it an looking for redemption in Fort William.

Mick Hannah has recovered from the broken hand he suffered in Croatia and has been putting in long days on his new dirt bike in preparation for hanging onto the bars in Fort William.
Mick Hannah has recovered from the broken hand he suffered in Croatia and has been putting in long days on his new dirt bike in preparation for hanging onto the bars in Fort William.

Resigned to the sidelines. It s fair to say a hole in the Fort William podium has opened up...
Resigned to the sidelines. It's fair to say a hole in the Fort William podium has opened up...

It s kind of a classic.
It's kind of a classic.

Atherton Racing represent right out of the gate.
Atherton Racing represent right out of the gate.

The long march begins from atop Aonach Mor.
The long march begins from atop Aonach Mor.

Track Walk felt more like track stand today in some sections. Despite being relatively unchanged over the past decade there as still a few line options out there that riders seem to find each new year.
Track Walk felt more like track stand today in some sections. Despite being relatively unchanged over the past decade, there are still a few new line options out there that riders seem to find each year.

Aaron Gwin enjoying the loose and dusty conditions during track walk. But unlike his home in Southern California it is doubtful things will stay this way all weekend in Scotland.
Aaron Gwin enjoying the loose and dusty conditions during track walk. But unlike his home in Southern California, it is doubtful things will stay this way all weekend in Scotland.

After a disastrous 9th at last year s race Seagrave will be looking to turn her luck around in the far drier far rockier wood section.
After a disastrous 9th at last year's race, Seagrave, will be looking to turn her luck around in the far drier, far rockier wood section.

 Yeahhhh - D.Lucas tribute to injured team mate J.Moir.
'Yeahhhh' - D.Lucas tribute to injured teammate, J.Moir.

Blenky s hungry for another podium and it s nothing he hasn t pulled off before at the Bill.
Blenky's hungry for another podium - something he's pulled off before at the 'Bill.

Stretching is more than crucial before a trackwalk of Fort Bill s duration and always hammies go first.
Stretching is more than crucial before a track walk of Fort Bill's duration and always hammies go first.

The grey mile stretches out infront of the Athertons and old lines need to be tuned up or chucked out all the way down to the forest.
The grey mile stretches out in front of the Athertons and old lines need to be tuned up or chucked out all the way down to the forest.

Will Losinj wildcard Dakotah Norton continue his assault on the top steps
Will Losinj wildcard, Dakotah Norton, continue his assault on the top steps?

Enjoy the long and smooth boardwalk because once you reach the end this don t let up into you ross the finish line.
Enjoy the long and smooth boardwalk because once you reach the end this doesn't let up into you cross the finish line.

Kaos Seagrave and Coach Chis discuss line options heading into the first big rock garden on track.
Kaos Seagrave and Coach Chris discuss line options heading into the first big rock garden on track.

Luca Shaw ready to take on the midges...
Luca Shaw ready to take on the midges...

It s a Kiwi... Obviously. Cube s Matt Walker to be precise.
It's a Kiwi... Obviously. Cube's Matt Walker to be precise.

Now eroded down to the bedrock and with a catch berm made of boulders the fastest part of the track is not for the faint of heart.
Now eroded down to the bedrock and with a catch berm made of boulders, the fastest part of the track is not for the faint of heart.

Mick Hannah sizes up some massive boulders on track in First William.
Mick Hannah sizes up some massive boulders on track in First William.

The wire on the bridges is starting to show some fatigue after a few thousand runs take their toll.
The wire on the bridges is starting to show some fatigue after a few thousand runs take their toll.

These slopes have seen years of abuse from the best in the world.
These slopes have seen years of abuse from the best in the world.

Out with the old and in with the new. For years the track went left after the deer gate but as of 2017 the track now cuts right for a new series of corners before entering the woods.
Out with the old and in with the new. For years the track went left after the deer gate, but as of 2017 the track now cuts right for a new series of corners before entering the woods.

It s a long and rough track to the deer gate but there is still a long way to go until you get to the bottom. From here down is often where the race is won or lost as riders become fatigued while trying to negotiate the tricky woods and gravity is less on their side through the motorway.
It's a long and rough track to the deer gate but there is still a long way to go until you get to the bottom. From here down is often where the race is won or lost as riders become fatigued while trying to negotiate the tricky woods and gravity is less on their side through the motorway.

Last year these new bits were soft and full of ruts come race day. Fast forward a year and they re brick hard and rough just like the track further up the hill.
Last year these new bits were soft and full of ruts come race day. Fast forward a year and they're brick hard and rough just like the track farther up the hill.

All between the tape.
All between the tape.

The most controversial section of a World Cup track in 2017 has been completely overhauled. You won t find anyone sinking in the mud or getting off to run through a bog this time around.
The most controversial section of a World Cup track in 2017 has been completely overhauled. You won't find anyone sinking in the mud or getting off to run through a bog this time around.

Perhaps Fort William didn t like it when we said Croatia was the rockiest World Cup of the season.
Perhaps Fort William didn't like it when we said Croatia was the rockiest World Cup of the season.

Enduro boss Greg Callaghan assisting Max Hartenstern s hike in the forest.
Enduro boss, Greg Callaghan, assisting Max Hartenstern's hike in the forest.

One of the classic wooded sections unchanged through the years other than some rocky armor on the landing zone.
One of the classic wooded sections, unchanged through the years other than some rocky armor on the landing zone.

The motorway... same as it ever was. Since last year s tune-up at least.
The motorway... same as it ever was. Since last year's tune-up, at least.

Guess who
Guess who?

Olly Wilkins bit the dust big time on his trail bike following two-time winner Gee down this beast of a hillside for the course preview. Luckily he ll live to tell the tale.
Olly Wilkins bit the dust big time on his trail bike following two-time winner, Gee, down this beast of a hillside for the course preview. Luckily he'll live to tell the tale.

Suited and booted Rachel is ready for battle a day early.
Suited and booted, Rachel is ready for battle a day early.

Young French pilot Marine Cabirou always a threat on the WC scene but strangely never managing better than 9th at Fort William. Will this be her year
Young French pilot, Marine Cabirou, always a threat on the WC scene, but strangely, never managing better than 9th at Fort William. Will this be her year?

Max putting the finishing touches to overall leader Myriam Nicole s Commencal Supreme.
Max putting the finishing touches on overall leader Myriam Nicole's Commencal Supreme.

The ferrari red M29 only missing a set of oversized hoops.
The Ferrari red M29, only missing a set of oversized hoops.

The Highlands combining beauty with gnar since 02.
The Highlands, combining beauty with gnar since '02.



95 Comments

  • + 44
 That wooded section that everyone complained about being too hard last year (after complaining that tracks were too 'bike-park'), is now full of pretty level/aligned rocks and doesn't look challenging at all for a pro-level rider. Shame really, that was the make or break area last year.
  • + 48
 I think there is a difference between difficult and unridable. That section when it got muddy was unridable and took more luck than anything else to make it through clean. That’s not what anyone wants.
  • + 9
 It isn't that hard to ride but to ride it fast in the wet when the mud gets pulled down onto it isn't going to be that easy. You have to slow down lots coming into the section for a tight eight before the drop. With the rain the landing of the drop could become a bog and there is a slight left as you land... then a flat right which you have to slow down for a little and then the rocks. Smooth line last weekend was to stay very far left the tight to the middle trees. As you enter the 2nd half of the new woods there is a right, left with trees blocking any real lean. There is already a hole on the racing line of the right and the left has 2 steps into it and 1 on the way out onto flat to off camber rocks. Getting the exit right is going to be really important as there isn't much gradient for the next 10m or so in or the track gap. I bet with the rain that some of those rocks come out like they used to in the old pinball and some holes appear.... then the possible bog off the drop on the way in which is much bigger than last year. It may look easy but in the wet and at race pace it won't be so easy. I would bet for mistakes on the exit left costing riders a few seconds.
  • + 23
 Spectating last year... riders like Minaar, Hill etc were making light work of that section... sad to see it gone.
  • + 77
 @c2crider: Hill was interviewed after and he said something along the lines 'of the new riders aren't used to natural terrain and as soon as you put a small natural section in they all complain'.
  • + 22
 Props to Brook and sick Mic for coming back to this track after 5 weeks????? Too soon or are these some badass mofos!
  • + 3
 @betsie: mate, have you seen WC racing in early 2000s? This is a single lane freeway. A hole and a bit of bog is hardly tech.
  • + 19
 Honestly, the bog was the highlight of the race last year! It separated the riders. It was amazing to watch guys like Neko Mulally and Greg Minnaar go from lose to mudd conditions so successfully. I don’t particularly remember hills run.
  • + 2
 @Joegrant: right on man!
  • + 26
 @c2crider: yeah, if you watched the Cathrovision coverage, quite a few people cruised through it smoothly. Unridable it was not.

No one wants to see sections that hurt people, but watching the guys and girls through that section and how much it separated people was one of the highlights of last year for me.

Tracks where it's just who can squash the jumps 0.00001 second faster than the next person are dull.
  • + 1
 @betsie: looks like you did your homework!
  • + 2
 Yeah I'm with you on this, one rider jumped over it I think. It makes pros go out of their comfort zones even more, I don't see the problem in having make or brake features in a course. It just shows who's got more overall skills. Its like those two sections from EWS, I don't think they were complaining as much.
  • + 2
 @ajayflex: I rode Fort William back then when it was known as one of the hardest tracks when it used to start across the hill. What made it hard was the bikes, tyres and the unpredictability of big rocks being dislodged.
You can't compare watching riders riding early dh bikes from 2000 to athletes riding a fine tuned race machines in 2018. At some point we have to accept that the game has moved on since back in the day.
  • + 2
 @surfct: I was riding there last weekend as I couldnt make the nationals there a couple of weeks ago. I see they have put the first bus stop in, in the rock garden too. There were a few complaints about it in the nationals due to the lack of flow... Cathro alludes to this in he day 1 report too. The last left is tricky and so important, as a racer you have to love corners like that on a tracks.
  • + 2
 @c2crider: Hill binned it in that section. Kerr just gapped over the heap though and it was awesome.
  • + 2
 Funny how the fast guys still managed to be fast through it.
  • + 4
 @orastreet1: I saw a comment from Gwin on the track walk yesterday saying that last year it was so inconsistent that by race time you just had to pin it through and hope you end up in the right rut. The best rider in the world says that it took a good amount of luck to make it through, I'll take his word for it.
  • + 1
 @sino428: Again, I don't see why this is a problem. Why do conditions have to completely constant? Isn't there a large level of skills also involved? At least that my view.
  • + 2
 @sino428: Gwin is the best racer in the world. That doesn't make him the best rider in the world.
  • + 1
 The best rider in the world is Christy Canyons.
  • - 1
 @stefanfresh: Because the race should be decided on skill and reward those who ride the best, not have it be decided on luck. Is it cool that a rider does everything right but falls because the section is an inconsistent swamp? I don't want to see that, and I don't really think the riders like riding courses like that either. All the hard work and practice they put in only to have a run ruined by something like that can't be fun.
  • - 2
 @sino428: Totally - I dont want luck to play any part of it - a misplaced wheel that sends you down isnt a matter of luck but a mass of mud that hides the obstacles and leaves your line to chance is ridiculous. Surely its the same argument as Lourdes last year when rain blew the race up and the winner was just the fastest of the also rans rather than the actual fastest racer?
  • + 2
 @sino428: Think you are mistaking his luck comment for his humility.
  • + 1
 @paulskibum: Look at the results of that race. Were they surprising?
  • + 16
 "Right now conditions look dry and loose and if the weather holds we will be in for an amazing weekend of racing in the Scottish Highlands" - Sorry to piss on the parade but it looks like the weather, at least on Saturday, is going to be positively gash. We have a yellow warning for rain from the Met Office for 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM on Saturday - "Heavy showers and thunderstorms are expected to develop by late morning on Saturday.............There is the potential for 20-30 mm of rain to fall in an hour, and as much as 50-70 mm in 2-3 hours. As well as heavy rain, frequent lightning and some large hail are also possible.: Homes and businesses could be flooded, causing damage to some buildings, Fast flowing or deep floodwater is possible, causing a danger to life.
  • + 19
 The sentence following the one you quoted alludes to exactly that ;-)
  • + 5
 Runs better a bit damp there anyway.
  • + 2
 So you're suggesting that rain will make the racing less amazing?



Cause nope
  • + 8
 @davetrumpore: I understand completely - It's just as a Scot the concept of the weather 'holding' is entirely alien to me Razz Looks like we are in for a wild one nonetheless!
  • + 2
 As long as every rider has to deal with biblical flooding then it should be gravy. Hart or Gwin for the win.
  • + 1
 The weather is always the same in my living room, yo
  • + 1
 Lightning might be an issue for the uplift though - most gondolas dont run in thunder storms.
  • + 12
 Luca, that ‘Widow in Mourning’ look is bitchin!
  • + 8
 Can you say Bad MFer? I love your voice when you say that.
  • + 0
 THIS IS JUST HOW LOUD I TALK
  • + 2
 @Boardlife69: AND YOU WILL KNOW MY NAME IS THE LORD
  • + 11
 For the love of god please post cathros Vlogs on PB as well
  • + 6
 that m29.....damn!!! more pics pls!
  • + 1
 also missing a rear shock
  • + 3
 Dont understand why the riders dont get a good pair of mountain shoes for trackwalk...
  • + 6
 Non of their sponsors make them.
  • + 6
 @fatduke: Except the guys sponsored by Five ten?
  • + 9
 @Jim-laden because that wouldn't be cool and chill and casual, man.
  • + 15
 Matt Walker has!
  • + 1
 @mfoga: thought they only did mtb trainers and climbing shoes. My apologies.
  • + 1
 Wouldn't you twist an ankle right before the race?
  • + 1
 I feel like you think there is something wrong with wearing jandals while going for a brisk walk on a hillside.... You're certainly mistaken.
  • + 0
 Ain't no one going to fly half way round the world with a bike bag, two pairs of riding shoes, a pair of travel shoes and a pair of flip flops, and also throw in some hiking boots for a two hour track walk.
  • + 2
 Meh. Who cares about the changes? People complain about rain halfway through a race like at Lourdes affecting results... What are you gonna do?
  • + 4
 Marine Caribou has two different brakes on her warmup bike...
  • + 1
 I absolutely love Fort William. The town is amazing and everyone is warm and inviting. I can't wait to go back. Oh.. and the track is seriously rocky to ride..
  • + 2
 Ben Nevis is one of the most mental mountains just to look up to. Annnnd...then there's the weather on top of that.
  • + 3
 Are all those rocks in the new section from last year hand planted then?
  • + 79
 Well, they started as pea gravel, but they grow quickly because of all the water.
  • + 2
 It's an Austrian import.
  • + 2
 @jefe: Hahaha and that's how we have such an epic race course in Scotland!
  • + 10
 @jefe: and because they have no natural predators
  • + 9
 @Socket: So they imported Brook Macdonald....who also has no natural predators. Good luck with that Scotland!
  • + 0
 More of a second generation repatriation. Next on the list of kilted Kiwis.
  • + 3
 what line? same as last year... yeah....
  • + 2
 Cheers for the pics, kinda wish I'd gone up this year now.
  • - 2
 Maybe I'm the a*shole, but isnt it time we thought about either retiring this track or giving Fort Bill a break for a couple years? The track just seems tired and they only seem to be making minor updates to it each year. I know its a sick venue with some amazing fans but i think it deserves a vacation.
  • + 7
 Only reason it has small updates is because it's already good.
  • + 0
 It would be good if the tracks had multiple branches leading off on the way down. So you could mix and match the sections of track each year to mix it up.
  • + 1
 nah, it's not time
  • + 1
 Anyone knows whose tattoo is that?
  • + 2
 Judging by the watch on his right hand and he is wearing the same thing as the top picture it appears to be Brook Macdonald.
  • + 1
 @Jtfuller24: whoa, you're right, and your observation skills are shocking! I'm impressedSmile Thanks!
  • + 1
 Ahh the track looks awesome! Can not wait to watch the race this weekend
  • + 1
 The last pic pretty much solved the Loch Ness mystery Wink
  • + 1
 Always a classic! Should make for a good race Smile
  • + 2
 Too bad Minnar is out.
  • + 1
 So is Olly Wilkins taking over from Claudio on the course previews?
  • + 1
 the track is designed for high speed.
  • + 1
 hm. Monkey's sauce.
  • + 0
 WTF who stole Aaron Gwins calfs? He must be all quads.
  • + 0
 Conditioning beats mass, yo
  • + 1
 The last picture!!!
  • + 1
 Gnarcore
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