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Interview: Fort William World Cup Qualifying & Semi-Final Reactions

May 4, 2024 at 16:48
by Nick Bentley  

We headed out after the semi-finals to speak to riders, some who had had a good day and some whose day was maybe not so good to see what they had to say.

Good Days

Douglas Vieira

So Douglas, possibly the luckiest man on the hill today. How does it feel to just scrape it in?

Yeah, it was a super tough day. It was such a rush to get out of the gate, but managed to keep it calm through the run and make it into the top 30. There was some bad weather for the other boys; unfortunately, some crashes and stuff made me slide into 30th, but it's super sick, super stoked and can't wait to ride tomorrow.

Yeah, so let's talk about your start. What made it such a rush?

Yeah, I was warming up at the top and I was looking at my watch. I realised I had five minutes left, and all of a sudden it was nearly my turn. I had to rush really hard, get my goggles off my dad, put the goggles with one hand and drop in just in time. It was like a crazy mess. But yeah, feels like a bit of a junior mistake, but happy that I'm in and I can do something better tomorrow.

How was the rest of the run? It was dry when you went down right?

Exactly. I had the dry conditions. Off the start, adrenaline was up high already, which I think helped me a little bit. Uh, had a bit of a messy run. Some foot off in some corners and a bit sketchy, but overall, pretty good run. Yeah, pretty happy with that.

So let's talk a bit about what's going on with you this year. Obviously wearing the Brazilian national champion jersey. How does that feel for a start?

I'm happy with the Brazilian National Champion jersey. Last year I took a year off to recover from my broken neck and I came back to just race Brazilian national champs back in Brazil and I took the jersey, and that was super cool.

Slightly different program for you this year, you got a new bike. Do you want to talk a little bit about that as well?

Racing for Polygon this year. They've come out with a new Polygon Colossus DH which is super cool. I've had a few months now of riding on it. Still not enough to feel really comfortable on it. Still some time to build some confidence and speed, but really happy with the bike. Bike works amazing. The whole bike, the whole setup this year is incredible. Still a privateer, but I have so much support around me and I'm really happy with everyone that helps me.

So finals tomorrow. In all honesty, did you think you'd be making finals this week?

I was aiming for the semi-finals in my head. Like, I know the top 30 is crazy fast, all the factory boys and the fastest men in the world are literally top 30 there. It's very difficult for me to slide into there. So if I was in the semi-finals, I was happy. But, hey, I'm not going to complain about finals tomorrow.

What's the plan tomorrow? Just leave it all on the track?

I'm gonna send it: all or nothing.

Martin Maes


Martin, probably a bit of a surprise to people that you're in tomorrow and ready for finals. How does it feel?

Yeah, it feels good. Although I think I got a little bit lucky with the weather because it only started to rain when I came down, we clearly saw on the screen that it was raining much more for the last 20-25 riders. But I'll take that, you know, and I improved my run as well. I improved a few lines, so I'm very happy to make it to the finals, it was obviously not expected and only three days on the bike before coming here. But the bike is working clearly. Obviously, a few adjustments to be made for tomorrow and in the future, but we are on a good path.

You were one of those people kind of in that middle ground that the rain had just started. How was it? Was it really wet up top or not too bad when you were there?

Yeah, it was a little drizzly, but I guess the track got wet very quickly and with the rocks. Usually, the rain isn't a problem here at Fort William, but I think the problem is that it's been super, super dry and a lot of dust on the rocks over the last few days, and just a little bit of rain made it really slick I think for the last 20-25 riders.

You could see it like people slipping out in places we don't normally see it.

Totally, and also the vision, it's on your mind, you know, when you're riding down and it's pissing down, it comes in your goggle lens and it gets harder mentally to ride.

It requires that level of preparation, right, to have tear-offs ready to go and things like that. I mean, it's been a very dry weekend.

Yeah, exactly. And the expectation for tomorrow is dry. It should be prime for tomorrow actually.

So tomorrow, how far do we dream you can get? What do you reckon?

You know I will, as always, try to do my own thing. Work on a few lines that I know I can improve for tomorrow and try my best. I came here without any expectations, and I'm in the finals. That was not expected. I'm just ready to give it all for tomorrow and for the fans.

Troy Brosnan


So Troy, probably the perfect end to the day for you right? First in semis.

Yeah, honestly, I wasn't really expecting it. I knew I did really well in quali, but I honestly thought Loic was way too far away, so I just kind of kept to my own race and did my own things and really attacked through the middle section where I lost time to him in quali. Um, so yeah, it all worked out. I'm not sure how his run was, but I guess that's racing. So yeah, dude, I'm over the moon. Obviously, last year was very up and down and to come and do this and be, you know, fourth in quali and now first in semi, it's an almost perfect start. So I'm looking forward to tomorrow even with this rain now it's just making the track better. So let's go.

You had some of the worst conditions. The track was wet up top and dryish in the middle I guess.

Honestly, up top it was really good. The rain made the dirt or the gravel really grippy. I could cut inside all the holes. There was a lot of wind in my face though, so I was like wondering how much that was going to affect my split up the very top. And then, yeah, through the pinball and all the rock sections, it was actually quite sketchy and I honestly reserved a little bit there because it was gnarly. Then as soon as I got down near the woods, it was a bit lighter rain, and I didn't have to pull any rolls, so I was just attacking from there down. I got the bottom really well, so I think that's what did it.

Schedule change this year. It seems to suit you well. Do you like it this way around having semis today?

Yeah, I honestly didn't really like semis and finals on the same day and I was wondering how today was going to go, especially at being early one day to try and do semi. And I guess when you're riding good and going fast it's pretty easy. Now, the pressure and the build-up for the race tomorrow are what I do really well at, and I can't wait.

New bike, which clearly goes really well. Happy with it?

How can I not be happy?! Let's go. Yeah. No, it's really good. Everything that we've got from Canyon and RockShox, it's doing amazing. And I'm just over the moon.

Tomorrow, the big question. Do you think you can repeat it tomorrow?

I don't see why not.

Bad Days

Sam Blenkinsop


Sam, your day wasn't ideal for you through to semis, looked pretty good, but it didn't work out from there?

Well, I feel like I rode really well. Like I got down to the bottom. Well, first thing, I couldn't really see my whole run. That was probably the main thing, because I got out of the gate and the goggles were just impossible and I didn't have any tear-offs or anything. So that was my stitch-up for the day. And I just kind of couldn't see so I made one big mistake, went off like the track, but I didn't go off the track, I was like off the line and I squared a corner off. But I felt really good, so I just smashed the whole way down. I felt like I was just pushing the whole time and I felt, oh man, that would have been easy for where I needed to be.

My quali time was would have made it in and I went two seconds slower. I don't really normally do that and I felt like it was a way better run, but I just couldn't, like the top section, I couldn't see things. When I have sh*t in my eyes, I can't really see properly so I wasn't concentrating because of that. But I was pushing hard and I felt like I rode way better but I guess the blindness kind of ruined me. But I had fun on the bike and at the end of the day, I couldn't complain about anything else. Like, I could have been like, "oh f*%k, you know, I should have been in, I made all these mistakes" but like, I rode my best and everyone else was in the wet too, so they were probably in the same things and everyone around us was two seconds slower than their seeding times too. So I guess that was just the way it was and then the top guys went quicker anyway, that was cool to see. I guess the middle guys were getting slippery because the rocks were slippery and then near the end it got better with the rain, like the dudes were saying, the turns got better because the turns were kind of slippery for us. Then the bridges were really wet for me and then once the rocks kind of get more like people riding on it gets better. I'm happy with my day. Bike was good. Not the result. Like all of us older guys said we remember coming here and having like a shit run and I'd be in like 10th. Now you have to have like a perfect run, and you might be in 40th like today.

It's brutal. I think we were looking at times last year and the top ten to 20 are separated by a second, two seconds. How hard is it when that rain comes and you're sort of in between it being proper rain? It was kind of drizzle and the bottom half of the track was pretty dry, the top was wet. How do you kind of prepare for that?

I don't know, it's hard because like the 10 guys like before me were probably dry, like Tay was just before me and he said he had no water in his eyes, but then he got a flat tire so then he could have been really done well. And then I was just on that bubble when it just started, so like it was kind of like slippery. But then just the vision was really bad for me. And then it got probably worse for like the ten guys after me, and then it probably got better, but then it looked like it was raining more. So it might have been worse for the vision, but you could say that's World Cup racing. I've done it now for like 19 years and I've had so many times where I was like good in qualifying and then it's done that in the race. It's like the top ten guys at the end have had shit weather. So it's just the way of racing. There's always complainers. But at the end of the day, it's just racing man.

Phil Atwill


Phil, probably not the weekend you wanted with a flat in quali, how are you feeling?

Yeah, I mean, practice yesterday, I'll be honest, we were struggling a little bit with the bike. There was a bit of vibration, a bit of noise from the bike. But we got that sorted today which was exciting. Felt good in practice despite the red flags. Hope everyone's all right because it's been a hectic few days to be honest. And then yeah quali run got myself into a fairly good headspace today. Dropped in, after the first two boardwalks there's like two fly-offs come off the second one. Then as soon as they took off, I see a loose rock in the track and I knew it, I just landed on that and that was it, really. So yeah, not how we wanted to start the first World Cup, but we've had worse days, mate. We've had worse days.

How do you guys deal with that? Do you just chalk it up as one of them things?

I mean, you've got to take the positives out of the week. You know like obviously struggled at the start week and then we found some good settings on the bike. So that's exciting. I guess just looking forward to the next one.

So team-wise you look back stronger than you were last year a bit bigger, a bit more looking like a factory team.

Thank you mate. Yeah, we've got some more support from Propain, some new sponsors on board, which is exciting: Newman, Schwalbe, and Ohlins have stepped in a bit. Yeah, it's cool. Kat, my wife, she's been helping out with all the design bits and bobs. So yeah, we have a new look.

New look looks good. So, goals for the year?

Goals for the year: get up to the top of the race run and ride my bike how I know I can ride it. You know I know I can be top 15, top ten. Be nice to see myself back there.

Taylor Vernon


Taylor, probably not how you wanted today to go. What happened?

We had a solid week just ticking my boxes all week, and then quali was a bit meh, like the first race run of the year. It was like the intensity was a bit lacking, so I hyped it right up for semi. I felt pretty good. Um, but then I didn't even go offline, just hit like, I don't know what happened. Just like a freak thing. Just pishhh as I hit the turn.

So a Fort William puncture?

Yeah, just a Fort William puncture, like everyone else has had one this week.

It's not been an easy start to the year for you really. I know British nationals aren't World Cups, but pretty rubbish luck at the nationals too. As a professional bike rider, how do you deal with that? How do you move on? Do you just chalk it up to racing and move on?

Uh, no. We got loads of positives to take from this weekend. First race with the team, bikes were wicked, awesome. The crew was good. So yeah I just got to look at the brighter things and leave the sh*t things in the past. Then on to the next.

The new bike, how is it?

It's wicked, when I haven't got a flat tire.

It seems like a fun, friendly kind of atmosphere in a pit. How important is that to a team?

It's good. Obviously, it's the first time we're all of us been together. So it's been, in that sense, it's been a success with everyone. So yeah, we're gonna have a lot of fun this year. A fun team. That's what brings the results. You see some grumpy teams sometimes, and they're all getting on each other's hairs, so.

I guess on a personal note, point hunting is less of an issue for you now you're on a team. How much of a stress reliever is that?

Yeah, I didn't even think of that. Now it's like, just turn up now next week and go again.

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  • 6 0
 Was at the quali and the semi finals yesterday and they have ruined the biggest thing about fort William, the crowd noise. Racers and crowds alike absolutely loved the noise that greeted the riders as they entered the finish area, it was like a sea of claps and whistles and bells.
Now all anyone hears is absolutely shite music that's so loud it drowns out literally every other noise. I'm talking about club level, shout to be heard ,decibels.
The interviewer kept saying " Let's give it up for ...(Rider name)", and you couldn't hear anything at all apart from the afore mentioned shite music. Really ruined the atmosphere that this venue is famous for.
  • 2 0
 I was getting excited for the season ahead untill after I flicked through the TV guide None of the two Eurosport channels are showing the race live. I have to wait until 6pm on the Monday for the first coverage..... Humpf.
  • 2 0
 To be fair this has been known for quite a while.
Not defending it but DH was always going to be on Eurosport App or Discovery+ but not main Eurosport Sky channels.
  • 1 0
 @gulogulointhearctic: I know, it was the case last year for a number of rounds. Just pointing out that it sucks as the racing is getting lost in the volumes of sport Eurosport puts out.
  • 2 0
 Does anyone know why there is no commentary in the Eurosport live coverage? I only have 'ambient sound' as an option FFS
  • 7 8
 I love the way Pinkbike are just carrying on, desperately pretending this is just another opening round of the season like any other. Completely ignoring the fact it's already a complete and utter shit show.
  • 2 0
 Was wondering too why this isn't being addressed on ANY site or social media channel from the usual coverage providers or broadcasters. It's pretty insulting.
  • 1 0

What it should be. Well done Canyon

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