Picture postcard weather, sold out gondola tickets and some of the biggest crowds Aanoch Mor has ever seen in its hosting history and we were already off to a legendary start in the Highlands. Add in the outrageous speed, monster crashes, kilts, cow bells, a handful of unicorns and not forgetting the legends themselves and Fort William was nothing short of an all-time race.
After 17 World Cup wins and a World Champion title, eleven years after taking the win in Scotland Steve Peat has finally hung up his boots, presumably wellies, at the mighty Fort. It's hard to believe we've seen him hurtling into a deafening finish arena here for the last time. We also witnessed Greg Minnaar storm the course on a run more ballistic than we could ever have expected... but then again we should have known better. Minnaar rode to a phenomenal double hat-trick of wins on this epic track and plowed still further into the record books as the greatest of all time. Meanwhile, Rachel Atherton secured one of the biggest winning margins in her career, over 12 seconds ahead of Tracey Hannah and a scorching 30 seconds faster than the tail end of the podium. Finn Iles took advantage of a particularly rough weekend for Madison Saracen with a commanding run and stole back the leaders in the juniors. Fort William also remembered Stevie Smith in a profound and moving tribute fit for a legend.
This was World Cup racing at its absolute finest.
Buffed and polished to pink perfection; Troy Brosnan's machine all ready for battle.
Best value for money bar ends ever?
Dougie Fresh running with the indispensable 'sit test'
Key times of the long day ahead at MS Mondraker.
Ex Trek World Racing buddies for life, George Brannigan and Laurie Greenland relaxing in the shade pre-race.
Mechanics Ben Arnott and John Hall face up to hundreds of keen race fans at the YT Mob corner.
We didn't get the note... Clearly we are doing it all wrong.
Eddie Masters taking some alone time in plain sight before a true 'YOLO' effort to back up his dream qualie.
Remy Morton pushing for seconds and style on a final practice lap.
Martin Maes was flying in practice, but the arch jump bit him hard on his race run as it did for a fair few unfortunate others.
Danny Hart laying it flat in practice. Hart took third today, but he was expecting more.
No point being fast if you can't look good doing it... Minnaar whips for the fans before finals.
A Fort William breakthrough continues to elude Brendan even though he looks like an absolute animal on mostly every section of the track.
Scotland's Reece Wilson sends it sideways in the early morning practice.
Not Ratboy's day, but he had plenty of fun none the less.
JUNIOR MEN //
Madison Saracen's Matt Walker suffered a crash, then a flat in his race run and would give up his lead in the Junior title chase to Finn Iles.
Don't expect Walker, who took the fastest top split, to surrender the title fight anytime soon, though.
Team GT's Jackson Frew, full gas for third.
CRC's Elliott Heap whips her out on the motorway on his race run, taking fifth today.
Commencal Riding Addiction's Gaetan Vige finally lived up to all that potential taking 2nd in Junior Men.
Vige takes the hotseat and nervously awaits the arrival of his Canadian rival.
Despite missing Cairns due to injury, Finn Isles leads the overall Junior rankings after taking his second win of the season here in Fort William.
Last man down in Juniors, and Finn goes straight to the top.
Finn soaks in the electric atmosphere of Fort William on his way to the podium.
Going live in 3...2... Warner and Claudio talk the talk at arguably the biggest race of the year.
Last year's junior winner, Marine Cabirou, continues to build speed now in elite alongside her heroes.
Confident and smooth all week, it was no surprise to see Tracey Hannah in 2nd today.
Manon Carpenter didn't have the run she wanted, but considering her illness earlier in the week, third isn't too bad.
Tracey greets Manon after her run.
Morgane Charre rode to a brilliant fourth but much like everyone else, was a long way back in time to Rachel.
An on-form Katy Curd flying into the arena and ready to make the Fort William podium for a second time.
Dominant is the only way to describe Rachel Atherton's racing right now, taking her 9th consecutive WC win in a row.
Rachel Atherton bringing it home for a roaring crowd. Atherton took win number three today.
Job done; 3 Fort William wins for Rachel and this one by an enormous margin. High fives.
Lots of love for Steve Smith from everyone this weekend.
Tributes were everywhere and the air felt super-charged with emotion.
Party on ladies.
Unicorns do exist... it just turns out their other-wordly beauty may have been exaggerated.
Scotty Mears might not have owned the motorway for speed, but he came, saw and conquered it for style.
Downhill: sometimes it hurts.
To say all the pressure was on Gee today from the massive crowds would be a huge understatement. There are few the UK fans want to see win more than Gee in Fort William.
Remi Thirion never looks ragged or out of shape despite his aggressive style. 9th today means that #23
board will be replaced with something quite a bit lower next week in Leogang.
Thirion set the first of the 'serious' times, went into the hot-seat and hung on for top ten.
Best bar ever. #longlivechainsaw
A beautiful top 20 at home for Kenta Gallagher.
Local hero, Greg Williamson makes it two top 10 World Cup finishes in a row and total of three at the Fort.
'Groundskeeper Willy' headed to his second best result of his career on home soil
Williamson for King and country... and Cube.
Alex Marin was on the move today and took thirteenth place. The young Giant rider has been making solid moves this season.
George Brannigan was one of many to find a solid run ruined violently by the finish line jump.
Brannigan's hands in pieces after his monster crash.
Mick Hannah took twenty-third today and walked away from Fort Bill unscathed. We are stoked about that.
Marcelo was looking strong with an 11th at the second split until a puncture unraveled his run just below the road gap.
Being Steve Peat's last race in Fort William, the organizers had a surprise for him.
In the form of a few thousand Peaty faces
Steve Peat boosting into the packed arena at 60kph, just one more time.
No one got louder cheers from the crowd than their long time hero, Steve Peat.
That's it, that's all in Fort William for the King.
First year Elite and defending Junior World Champ, Laurie Greenland uncorked a scorcher today to grab 8th...
Greenland was charging hard and it payed off... Just 1.5 seconds off the podium.
Rounding out the top 10 was the ever-consistent Connor Fearon.
Thinking outside the box.
After a flat in qualifying, Greg Minnaar would come down ahead of the big guns to take the hot seat by over 8 seconds.
Greg Minnaar can make time like no other on the bottom of this track. He's the winningest racer of all time for a reason.
After Greg's incredible run the crowd went silent as the UCI gave a ghost run in memory of Stevie Smith. In a venue so accustomed to defining noise it was a treat to reflect on the life of an incredible human with not a sound in the air.
The thousands fell silent to honour the late Stevie Smith in a moving tribute approved by RedBull TV and the UCI.
It was an emotional few moments for a lot of riders, especially those already in the finish arena.
The air was charged with emotion. Steve, you are sorely missed.
Luca Shaw was stylish in practice and like a bullet on his race run. The young American took sixth today and is on course for one hell of a season.
Danny prepares to drop in on what he hopes will be the run of his life. In the end it wasn't to be his day and he had to settle for another mere podium.
The Ratboy's wait for top result at the Fort must wait another year.
Troy always seems to do well in Fort William no matter the conditions, and he battled his way onto the podium once again.
A man on a mission to pad his points lead in the overall, Aaron Gwin was pinned all the way down the track and for a moment looked like he was going to give Greg a serious run for the money. Ultimately, however, he would have to settle for 2nd spot, just over three seconds back.
Rachel's reaction as she watched Gee's crash on the big screen in the finish arena. Taking a big slam in one of the gnarlier rock sections, his status for next weekend is now questionable.
Gee Atherton wanted his third Fort William win badly and this one will hurt because he knew he had the speed.
Atherton's face showing the pain of massive crash in the rocks, a lung-busting sprint on the motorway and a possible victory thrown away.
Out of nowhere after two rounds of struggle, Greg Minnaar swoops in for the win, this time with one of the best runs of his entire career. He was pushing like we've never seen and this incredible win will mean a lot to Greg in memory of Stevie.
As always the crowds delivered in Fort William, and once again it was Greg Minnaar putting on the biggest show.
Troy and Danny exchange war stories post race.
Gwinny didn't pull off the win, but he laid down yet another strong run this afternoon to hold on to the leader's plate.
Minnaar! This one is for you Stevie. Greg salutes the crowd with the chainsaw flag.
As close as we got to rain this year at Fort Bill. Shout out to the weather gods for helping create one of the best Highland experiences in many years.
Gas-to-podium. An incredible qualifier backed up with the run of Adam Brayton's life. Was it sketchy? Yep. Was it awesome? Most definitely.
The G.O.A.T. goes one further and secures a mind-boggling double hat-trick of wins at Fort William.
Even hanging in the stand, Greg's V10 looks fast.
A parting gift from the Fort, 11 years and a lot of memories after Peaty's big highland win.
Doing Stevie proud today.
No cigar for the Redcar rocket, but there's always next year or hell, next round.
Cheers to still leading the series... Aaron Gwin continues to lead out the pack heading into round 4, Brosnan and Hart his closest competitors.
We could all be that fast if only we had the right bike! Bike marketing from the best riders in the world at its most lethal...