Saturday 2nd June saw the 2018 4X ProTour roll into Fort William, Scotland for round 3 of the 2018 tour. The iconic 4X venue in Scotland has seen some of the most spectacular 4X races in history, and in 2018, there would be plenty more drama...
The track looked immaculate. Duncan Ferris spent a week here ahead of the race and together with the team at Fort William had done an amazing job of getting it ready. Some fresh ideas and options were integrated into the track and it opened up plenty of new passing opportunities.
The weather was glorious all week and the track amazingly was dry and dusty. Almost too dry! We never thought we would say that in Fort William! However, rain was forecast for the three days of practice, qualifying and racing.
Practice started on Thursday with riders getting used to the track layout. The track was loose and dusty with rocks and stones littering the length of the course. Tyre choice was the key to gaining grip and flow on the technical track.
On Friday, there was a second practice session followed by qualifying. Going in reverse order of world rankings and starting with the women, qualifying got underway...
It was great to see Romana Labounkova racing in Scotland again. The BMX Olympian has always split her time with BMX and 4X and is now focusing on 4X races in the future. She was certainly the favourite for this event, but her competition would come from Natasha Bradley, the British rider who finished 2nd to Labounkova in the 2017 4X ProTour overall.
Natasha set a great time on her run stopping the clock at 45.385. It was faster than the previous fastest rider Megan Wherry by 3 seconds. The final rider was Labounkova who in turn went a second and a half faster than Natasha crossing the finish line with a time of 43.939 and would head into the finals on Saturday with the all-important gate pick.
1st – Romana Labounkova – 43.939
2nd – Natasha Bradley – 45.385
3rd – Megan Wherry – 48.705
4th – Josie McFall – 49.803
Next up were the men. Duncan Ferris got the home crowd shouting as he took the hot seat early on and it looked like being a solid time until Kevin Berginc bumped him off the top spot by 0.06. Then Connor Hudson sent the crowd wild posting an incredible time of 39.926 – the first rider under 40 seconds. Spaniard Javier Vega Garcia then went fastest with 39.841. Next up, Tomas Slavik completely lit the track up. 38.635! The time was incredible and look unbeatable. Quentin Derbier slotted into 3rd and Felix Beckeman – the last rider on track could not beat the time – moving into 2nd.
1st - Tomas Slavik – 38.635
2nd – Felix Beckeman – 38.848
3rd – Quentin Derbier – 39.307
4th – Javier Vega Garcia – 39.841
On Saturday, huge crowds lined the track and the scene was set for a great night of 4X. Fort William has never failed to deliver and in 2018 it produced some of the best 4X racing ever seen in the Highlands.
In the men's race, there was an early exit for Charlie Curry and Euan Speirits. Alex Metcalfe, Davi Roberts and Grant Hill also made early exits in the second round of racing.
It was in the quarterfinals though where some heavy hitters bowed out. Tomas Slavik, whilst comfortably leading, crashed out in turn 2 and would not proceed any further. A huge shock to see him make a mistake and end up in 13th position. Birthday boy, Scott Beaumont did not get the present he wanted either. Whilst leading his quarterfinal a huge slide in turn 2 saw him slip back to 3rd and his night was over ending up 9th. So, with 2 of the big names out, there were going to be some fresh faces on the podium.
On to the semi-finals. In semi-final 1, Connor Hudson lined up against Ingo Kaufmann, Duncan Ferris and Will Evans. The gate dropped and Connor Hudson made a great start leading the race. Kaufmann was in 2nd with Ferris and Evans lining up passes in every corner. The battle was on and continued all the way to the final straight, but Kaufmann held on to 2nd with Hudson winning. Both of these riders had just made their first ever 4X ProTour final.
In semi-final 2, Felix Beckeman took gate 1, Quentin Derbier took 2, Thomas Denizot in 3 and Elliott Heap in 4. Heap, in his first ever 4X race had been wowing the crowds with his great line choices and passes all night. Fresh from qualifying in the downhill earlier in the day, he was looking for a place in the final of the 4X! As the gate dropped it was Derbier and Beckeman in a drag race down the first straight. Beckeman took the lead in turn 1 with Derbier in 2 and Denizot moved into 3rd. Heap was working the track and trying to move forwards. Across the line the race for second was tight but Derbier claimed it to move to the final with Beckeman.
After the semi-finals, the rain which had been forecast all week, finally arrived and it arrived with a bang. Torrential rain, thunder and lightening completely changed the track conditions, with rivers of water running down it in places!
In an action-packed women’s small final with crashes and passes, Courtney Abbiss kept her head, taking the win and claimed 5th overall for the night.
In the men’s small final it was Duncan Ferris, who after 15 years of 4X racing won the race and with it his first ever World 4X podium. Congratulations to Duncan.
So it was time for the main finals...
In the women's, it was Romana Labounkova on gate 1, Natasha Bradley on 2, Megan Wherry on 3 and Josie McFall on 4. The gate dropped and Labounkova made the snap and led into turn 1. Bradley was in 2nd and pressing hard. Into turn 4, Bradley tried to make a pass but couldn’t make it stick. Labounkova hung onto the lead and pulled away to make it 3 wins from 3 races in 2018. Bradley held onto 2nd with Wherry in her first ever 4X ProTour taking 3rd. Josie McFall, also in her first 4X ProTour event finished 4th. It was great to see some fresh faces on the podium and we look forward to seeing them at many more in the future. It was an amazing race and got the crowd ready for the men’s final.
In the men's, Felix Beckeman took gate 1, Quentin Derbier with second pick went for gate 3, Connor Hudson took 2, then Ingo Kaufmann chose 4. The gate dropped, and the 4 riders fired down the first straight. Beckeman won the drag race to turn 1 with Derbier battling with him all the way. Hudson was in 4th after being squeezed on the first straight and Kaufmann in 3rd. The two lead riders rode wide on the first turn and down the 2nd straight which allowed the race to bunch up. Through the next turns the riders kept it clean but on the exit of turn 5 Beckeman was able to move clear. Beckeman held onto the finish to claim the win ahead of Derbier and Kaufmann with Hudson rolling across the line in fourth.
A fantastic night of racing that was appreciated by the thousands of fans in Fort William as well as the thousands more who watched the live broadcast on 4X ProTour website and Facebook page. A great display of 4X racing on one of the best tracks in the world. Thank you to everyone involved in hosting such an amazing event.
Round 4 of the 4X ProTour will take place on 14th July in Jablonec, Czech Republic at Tomas Slavik’s home track. You would be a fool to bet against him, but without a doubt, the other riders will be working hard between now and then to try and win in JBC bike park.
For the full results click here
For more information on the 4X ProTour, please visit: