Marching on towards its 20th anniversary, the Fort William World Cup holds its place as the most legendary and coveted podium on the circuit. It is no less a classic and absolutely no easier to race. And the weather? Well, some things never do change. Grim doesn't do justice to the horror show here today in the Highlands; thick blanket fog, driving rain and a course more suited to salmon spawning than any form of mountain biking. It's been a few years since we saw the atmospherics turn this sour. We've been lucky and now it's time to get wet.
'If it ain't broke' as the saying goes... An appropriate quip for the track here on Aonach Mor as it remains almost entirely unchanged from 2018. Only a small section of the recently modified woods in the middle of the run has been adjusted. Instead of using the 'roughly paved' forest section that improved on the bog of years gone by, riders will now hit a soft and wide grass connector to reach the fast open berms above the road gap that have been unused for several years. Note also that a good amount of maintenance work has gone in to freshen the track both high up on the moor and for the motorway jumps en route to the finish area. Only good news on a course as established and beaten up as this one, with the bad weather setting in for the days ahead.
As ever, rain or shine, there is nowhere to hide and no excuses for the World's fastest races, all gunning for precious points in the overall. Round one was an amazing start for race fans everywhere; an old-school course delivering new school results as 90s kids Bruni and Seagrave ran away with it. Who to watch out for this time? Top performers from Slovenia would be a safe bet, but don't forget to factor in just how tight the racing was, with less than 2 seconds separating the men's podium. It'll surely be Seagrave versus Atherton down the wire in the women's and Holl and Daprella will be doing their damned-est for elite podium times. Bring on the speculation in a mighty damp timed-training tomorrow.