Track Walk: Highlander - Fort William DH World Cup 2019

May 31, 2019
by Nathan Hughes  



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.


Before the rains came; how you'll see Scotland in the travel brochures. The truth is it's awesome whatever the weather. Eilean Donan at sunset 1.5 hours from the venue.

You're a wizard, Harry. The Fort William to Mallaig steam train in motion on the Glenfinnan viaduct, a short drive from town.

Scotland at its finest... but that was yesterday.

Riders arriving throughout this week were treated to a Glencoe in all its early summer glory.

If the skies clear this is the view of the course high up on Aonach Mor that will first to greet ticket holders for the weekend.

It looks like we ll be seeing plenty of this over the weekend.
For better or worse, it looks like we'll be seeing plenty of this over the weekend.

Greg Minnaar s mechanic Jason Marsh making sure the South African s setup is millimetre perfect.
Greg Minnaar's mechanic Jason Marsh making sure the South African's setup is perfect to the millimetre.

The number 1 plate in Tahnee Seagrave s bike for the first time.
The number 1 plate on Tahnee Seagrave's bike for the first time.

The Trek Factory racing boys got an RC truck. It lasted 5 minutes.
The Trek Factory racing boys got an RC truck. It lasted for 5 minutes.

Benoit unsheathes a fresh race weapon the Bulldog will ride into battle.

Winter jackets and hats were the hot ticket for riders trying to stay warm in the pits today
Winter jackets and hats were the hot tickets for riders trying to stay warm in the pits today

Old teamies and fellow Aussies, Jack Moir and Dean Lucas hug it out after some long haul flights.

Grease, that's grease.

Danny Hart will be hungry for it this weekend. The big win in Fort William had alluded him so far.
Danny Hart will be hungry for it this weekend. The big win in Fort William had alluded him so far.

The final preparations to suspension being made before the rock smashing party begins
The final preparations to suspension being made before the rock smashing party begins

Aaron Gwin s mechanic making some reach adjustments to the headset of his race bike before tomorrow s practice session
Aaron Gwin's mechanic making some reach adjustments to the headset of his race bike before tomorrow's practice session

Fresh Santa Cruz rims for Mr. Vergier at the Syndicate pits.

The 2019 Fort William World Cup is of the a very wet start
The 2019 Fort William World Cup is off to a very wet start

Sam Blenkinsop fearlessly strides out into the thick fog.

A river runs down nearly the entire track at the moment and with a day of rain in the forecast for practice we anticipate a weekend of slop
A river runs down nearly the entire track at the moment, and with a day of rain in the forecast for practice we anticipate a weekend of slop

Young Brit, Mike Jones is due another top result after a few years away from the podium.

The TFR boys head out of the start house.
The TFR boys head out of the start house.

A lowly 9th for Greenland in Maribor has him chomping at the bit to smash out a podium or maybe even a bit of a win here at the Bill.

Right now the first looks fantastic but with more rain in the forecast for practice it is sure to get nasty out there.
Right now the first turn looks fantastic, but with more rain in the forecast for practice it is sure to get nasty out there.

Foggy soggy Fort William
Foggy, soggy Fort William

Greg Minnaar Luca Shaw and Loris Vergier puzzling near the first big rock section.
Greg Minnaar, Luca Shaw, and Loris Vergier puzzling near the first big rock section.

High speed rock smashing anyone
High-speed rock smashing anyone?

Exploring the grey mile in the fog high up on top of the moor.

Beware ye ol death nip.
Beware ye ol' death nip.

Classic weather at a classic venue
Classic weather at a classic venue.

MacDonald leads out the Mondrakers.

Could the most Scottish sounding non-Scot go the distance here? 2nd in 2013, his best result to date in the Highlands.

Another year and there s even less dirt left on the upper part of the track
Another year and there's even less dirt left on the upper part of the track.

Big boulders litter the middle part of the track
Big boulders litter the middle part of the track.

World Cup leader Tahnee Seagrave out n the rain during track walk.
World Cup leader Tahnee Seagrave out in the rain during track walk.

Reece Wilson and Charlie Harrison peeping lines.
Reece Wilson and Charlie Harrison peeping lines.

Classic raceway, classic conditions.

If it wasn't for the tape today there'd be a lot of riders still up there.

Aaron Gwin dodging puddles and looking for dry lines ready for training.

After some intensive rehab, Gwin is hoping his ankle is up to the task. At least it handled today's stroll down the bedrock.

Some of the bigger holes have been patched up but it is by no means a smooth ride in Fort William
Some of the bigger holes have been patched up but it is by no means a smooth ride in Fort William.

The skyway to summer dreams and the cheese-grater rock of the world-famous course below.

Ruts gonna form bro.
Ruts gonna form bro.

Troy Brosnan and Mark Wallace out for a stroll in the Fort William mud
Troy Brosnan and Mark Wallace out for a stroll in the Fort William mud

Mark Maurissen fears no weather.
GT Team Manager, Mark Maurissen, fears no weather.

Once into the trees the track tarts to change.
Once into the trees the track starts to change.

The lower sections are a different kind of rough.
The lower sections are a different kind of rough.

The rocky causeway through the woods that thankfully replaced the forest bog for the 2018 race.

Greg Minnaar is looking for repetition on a track that has treated him very well over the years
Greg Minnaar is looking for repetition on a track that has treated him very well over the years

While the top is a granite studded speedway the bottom is a different beast.
While the top is a granite studded speedway, the bottom is a different beast.

Tahnee Seagrave trying to make sense of the quirky lines that lead into the big road gap out of the bottom woods
Tahnee Seagrave trying to make sense of the quirky lines that lead into the big road gap out of the bottom woods.

Jack Moir scopes out this year's reimagining of the road gap.

Reece Wilson takes the inside line.
Reece Wilson takes the inside line.

The dirt gets a bit softer as you get to the tree line
The dirt gets a bit softer as you get to the tree line.

The classic wall-ride above the motorway, still in place and slicker than ever.

This gap in the same size as previous years but the width of the stream below is quite a bit bigger with all the rain that has come down
This gap is the same size as previous years but the width of the stream below is quite a bit bigger with all the rain that has come down.

The last bit of rough woods before the all important motorway sprint to the finish line
The last bit of rough woods before the all-important motorway sprint to the finish line

At least this is a track established long enough to reject most of the water flowing over it.

The free-racers favorite motorway before the finish area.

Little doubting tyre choice will play its role or take its toll for many riders this time in the Highlands.

Gee Atherton checking for a break in the weather.
Gee Atherton checking for a break in the weather.

Charlie Harrison is mad for it right now. With his first podium crossed off last month, expect to be charging hard here in Scotland.

Conor Fearon's best result here is an 8th since his first race in 2012. You know he won't stop coming back until he takes to the top steps.

Damage limiting drainage works underway for many teams in the pits this evening.

The all important fresh brake bleed before battling with the high speeds of the Fort William track
The all-important fresh brake bleed before battling with the high speeds of the Fort William track.

Luca Shaw in bee-keeper mode, taking no chances with the hyperactive midges.

Rachel Atherton gets a dose of WynTV airtime.
Rachel Atherton gets a dose of WynTV airtime.

Tire choices at the ready. The weather looks grim.
Tire choices at the ready. The weather looks more than grim.

Greg Minnaar will be looking to add another Fort William win to the collection.
Greg Minnaar will be looking to add another Fort William win to the collection.

It s looking like it s going to be a wet one this year in Fort William
Wet, wet, wet.

Aaron Gwin is all set for tomorrow with his spare bike that mechanic John Hall built up over the last few days.
Aaron Gwin is all set for tomorrow with his spare bike that mechanic John Hall built up over the last few days.

The arena awaits...

All the head-turning action coming your way tomorrow with first practice runs and the timed training session.



50 Comments

  • + 73
 Kick ass images, guys, as per usual!
  • + 9
 Indeed. We get all this content we'll having to pay for it too. Thank you pink bike
  • + 5
 Yeap... Thanks a lot photog... There's more than few photo for my desktop... Amazing shot, angle, exposure, dramatic
  • + 49
 Cheer up.... today's rain is tomorrow's whisky
  • + 2
 You sir are the man
  • + 3
 Some of the better local knowledge.
#ryeryenot
  • + 2
 Or better yet, the whiskey 10 to 50 years from today...
  • + 16
 It's Danny Hart for the rain.. Yay
  • + 8
 Danny Hart tells us how to go FAST at Fort William

What's the SECRET to going fast at Fort William?
  • + 8
 A reminder. It is only the female midge that bites, and only when in the mood for mating. There's a lesson there gentleman.
  • + 4
 So if you mate with them they stop biting you?
  • + 3
 Actually, that reminds me of a few of my ex-girlfriends.
  • + 7
 I love WC season!
  • + 4
 Bleeding brakes with the pads still in! You sir, must be on a level of precision that I can not match... or you have loads of spares.
  • + 3
 First off, these photos are incredible. Second, it's amazing what bikes can do these days. It's incredible wheels can smash through those rocks at race pace and make it all the way to the end of the track.
  • + 3
 That photo of the road and mountain on the left is unreal. New wallpaper cheers!
  • + 7
 The hill is Buachaille Etive Mòr, at the head of Glencoe. Skyfall was partly filmed to the left of the drone pic.
Welcome to my part of the world.
  • + 1
 The Glencoe Downhill tracks (and Ski Centre) are less than 500m before Buachaille Etive Mor - well worth a blast down. You can see cars driving up the access road just past the bridge on the left-hand side on the main road. The bridge is the one that Danny Macaskill cycled over the side wall. www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/highlands/1652887/danny-macaskill-in-daring-stunt-at-iconic-glencoe-road-bridge
  • + 1
 @mattoutandabout: One of the reasons Skyfall is my favorite Bond movie is the amazing location of the Highlands.
  • + 1
 Great pics- the Drone (?!) ones especially! Between the biting flies, weather, isolation, broadcast action, etc. it must be a fantastic track/organising committee to have nearly made 20 years there...!
  • + 4
 I can't believe it's raining in Scotland...
  • + 2
 Said to see Moir and Lucas on different teams, is was a bit like Rennie and Kovarik 2.0 at Intense for a while there.
  • + 1
 Cracking photo's, It's going to be a corker of a race (assuming we'll be able to see them through the cloud??)
  • + 1
 Ah such classic weather! Who's taking bets on how many riders eat it during practice? Reign in Muuuuuuuuud!!
  • + 1
 Who are the guys sitting on the crowd sitting area haha? Has to be so boring
  • + 1
 I'm glad they decided to put yellow paint rings around those dangerous midge turds.
  • + 1
 There must be a million of those rings
  • + 1
 It's a pity there's no major new sections, didn't they have a significant new part in the top section for the BDS?
  • + 1
 Big ass road gap when you look at the truck parked to the side down there
  • + 1
 UCI MTB DH World Championships?
  • + 1
 What about them?
  • + 1
 yes
  • + 2
 yes there must've been a mistake
  • + 1
 The umbrellas have returned...
  • + 1
 Some of the best track walk images ever I think.
  • + 1
 These images are amazing, keep up the great work!
  • + 1
 deleted
  • + 1
 There can be only one.
  • + 1
 Marys at the ready!
  • + 1
 Bloody or Muddy?
  • + 0
 Real good post. Thanks guys.
  • - 3
 Someone tell John to check the cranks going on Aaron’s bike pls. Thnks
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