Fort William 2015 - MacLennan Photo Reel

Jun 9, 2015 at 16:29
by Alasdair MacLennan  
So many times since the World Cup first visited this Scottish mountain side there have been threats of bad weather. These threats have rarely materialised on the day but 2015 seems to be the year of the storm. With bad weather forecast, and two fronts hitting predicted to hit over the weekend, there were worried faces over just what would await riders. Would it be the mother of all storms, high winds, torrential rain, or just a bit of dampness? Friday's first practice session certainly laid the cards on the table with strong winds, rain and gusts at the top of the Aonach Mor. Waterproofs, black rain gear, duck-taped shoes and extended visors not to mention multiple tear-off's were all tools in the arsenal of riders looking to learn lines. It wasn't much better for the photographers with many resorting to plastic bags, tape and a prayer to keep non-waterproof camera bodies dry, to varying degrees of effectiveness! That's the thing with Scotland; the hills may be small (Ben Nevis would barely register as a blip on most international mountain maps), but the weather more than makes up for any lack of height.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Subtle product placement. Brook, the Kiwi powerhouse, definitely looked relieved to be moving on after a disappointing weekend which just didn't go his way. Twentieth in qualifying was not the ideal way to start a very busy Sunday but what started off badly ended worse when an altercation with the ground high on the hill left him in a position from which he just couldn't recover.


UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Coming into the weekend riding the number one board followed by qualifying in first too, it was looking good for Lapierre's Loic Bruni. He hit the first split faster in finals than he had in qualifying but then it all began to unravel as he moved down the course. Sure, top ten at the second split and an eventual seventh place is nothing to be sniffed at, not when you're riding in a stacked field and in difficult conditions, but he'll definitely be thinking long and hard about what could have been.


UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Iridium lenses are perhaps slightly optimistic in Scotland on even the good days, even more so when the rain is blowing across horizontally, waterfalls are flowing uphill and the sun is missing, presumed dead. Still, optimism is welcome when you're sat at the side of the track, struggling to stand upright. Tracey Hannah will no doubt have been unhappy to slip from fourth to seventh come finals but sometimes the dice just doesn't roll in your favour.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  With rain keeping the dust down there was more grip and less roost than normally on display here at a World Cup. Well, more grip in places; the wooden boardwalk preceding this corner is a place you always want to play it canny in the rain. Overshoot your braking zone and you'll find yourself quickly heading for a moment. Charly di Pasquale holds it together here (just) early on Friday morning.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Number 4 was his plate when he took his first podium here, could it be a feat repeated in 2015? Despite a 4th place in Lourdes it wasn't to be for Danny. A haematoma on his side certainly wouldn't have been helping the Englishman but a third in qualifying backed up by a solid top ten in the finals isn't a bad way to keep things moving forwards. Having moved on from long time sponsors Giant to Mondraker over the off season he was looking comfortable on the new Carbon Summum.


UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015
  Sometimes business comes first, and while many on the circuit work hard, few work harder than Scotty Mears. The Geordie (if you're outside the UK, look up Geordie Shore and see if you reckon you'd understand the accent) opened up his own bike shop a few years ago, Cyclefix, and clearly has something right; he's making his third premises move in as many years. Join the industry to ride your bike, and end up riding less. That's the way it goes sometimes. Even so, board 155 is not a plate fitting of his skills and so it proved, getting through qualifying with room to spare and netting 56th. Is this the return of the Scotty?


UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Take one American, throw him on a bike and watch him rip. Gwin normally rocks the bright colours over a weekend but black was definitely the theme of the day on Friday; warmth and dryness taking priority over looking bright. Eleventh in qualifying might not have been anything special but second place in the final? That'll do nicely. Just over one second down on the win there's no doubt the Californian will be looking to return to the top step come Leogang in less than a week's time.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015
  Crashing sucks. Bernat was looking good after qualifying in the top thirty but come race runs and the 'World Cup Woods' were having none of it. At least 20% of the field had moments in the axle deep ruts and speed sapping mess than ensued, and the Spaniard was not in the 80%. Even the 650B Intense M16 wasn't sufficient to save him and reduce the damage of a thirty second plus deficit.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Emilie Siegenthaler proving that remaining dry needn't leave you looking like a colourless shadow moving through the image. Okay, it may be a little close in colour to some of the marshals but hey, it's better than black. No tear-off's can be a brave choice on a track that is usually closer to five minutes long than not, especially when you've got rain drops the size of those in this shot. Not such a problem in practice but come race runs no rider wants to be squinting through that microscopic speck of clear lens as you're heading through the rock gardens.


UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Clearly missing the memo for black rain gear, Brendan has always been one to turn on the style and stand out. With a luminous orange Scott Gambler and matching gear he could have rolled down the hill at 5mph and still stood out on a dank and drich Scottish day. A top 25 place qualifying run was steady and low key while just a few more places in the final netted a top 20 with a five-minute-dead run.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015
  The reigning World Champion with what must be the worst board he's had in quite a while. The GT rider picked up the pace on Sunday afternoon and narrowly missed out on making the jump to third in the finals.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  What can be said of this? Minnaar isn't old, but he certainly isn't a spring chicken in the relatively youthful world of downhill, and there were many who were surprised to see the South African on the top step of the podium. Sure, he's made it his track over the years and he is undoubtedly one of the fittest and strongest pedallers on the circuit even now, but that counts for nothing if you don't have the skills in the rough. As one of the greatest athletes in our sport it was great to see such a hard worker on winning form, and taking his fifth Fort William victory into the bargain.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Flat is Boring. There aren't many metres of the Fort William course which could be described as smooth, with even those looking smooth from a distance being deceptively close to washboard. If it isn't midges attacking the marshals it's the rain, and sometimes downtime is enforced in less than ideal conditions when a rider needs evacuated from the hill. Now it's easy to mock Scottish weather, hell even the Scots like to do it, but down jackets in June? Come on weather, sort yourself out!

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  If you haven't seen 'that' footage yet then go find it, and then show it to someone who thinks downhill is easy. Manon is tough, make no mistake. Qualifying with a thirteen second lead she went into the final with the definite prospect of a win in her sights. And until she came into sight of the finish that was still an outside possibility. But coming up slightly short on the Tissot, sorry, Visit Scotland arch, and a seat buck to oblivion left her ragdolling down the hill. Such was the command that she and Rachel had over the competition though she was still able to take fourth spot. A new helmet, some ibuprofen and a little rest will see her back fighting fit for Leogang.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  After taking 32nd in the season opener at Lourdes, Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas was on the hunt. Qualifying in tenth was a definite positive ray of light in a sky of black clouds which only shone more brightly as the Giant riding, five times Columbian National Champion, took an impressive third place.


UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Rain in the sky, mud on the ground and absolutely focused, steely-eyed determination. Polygon's Mick Hannah has always been one of the more popular riders on the circuit but has never seemed quite able to put a run together here that's capable of challenging the top step. He's been tantalisingly close to taking that win on Scottish soil, but it's just never quite been good enough. Another rider to suffer in the woods, the game was over from there on in, but he'll bounce back and the season is yet long.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Leaning it into the corners and letting the cut spikes hook into the softer than normal terrain. It's not often spikes and Fort William are mentioned together in the same sentence but you could bet your last dollar that they'll have been a godsend in the woods. Despite qualifying not going to plan, the final is where it counts and the final is where Rachel laid down the time for all others to beat. It briefly looked as though Manon may be in a position to challenge but realistically it was going to be hard, even before she crashed out in sight of the finish line. It's hard to believe that before this weekend Rachel had only ever won the event once before, taking her maiden win just two years ago in 2013.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Consistency is difficult in ever changing conditions but Morgan Charre managed it, following a strong ninth placed qualifying run with a stronger eighth just a few hours later.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Sam 'Sambo' Dale goes well at Fort William . He was second at the first split but this faded in the conditions and had to settle for just 35th by the finish. Check out the proto pedals up close and personal at 30kph.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Copparide! Another emerging force on the women's circuit, Tahnee Seagrave is talented, and most importantly, fast. She was a few seconds back on Rachel this weekend. Without meaning to jinx her, surely it's a case of which World Cup she wins this year, rather than if she wins? She also had an awesome pink & black race ready replica of this bike for breast cancer awareness which was given away to one lucky fan at the end of the weekend. Can't say fairer than that.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Speed seems to come so naturally to the Belgian Atherton protege Martin Maes. What is it with Belgium and fast mountain bikers? For a country so flat they sure seem to have proven themselves capable of producing some quick talent over the years. Martin may still be racing in the Junior category this year but his speed would not do him a disservice in the main senior field. Racing both enduro and downhill at world level certainly makes for a packed season but at the moment he seems perfectly comfortable with the varying challenges that both disciplines provide (he finished 12th overall in the recent Tweed Valley EWS round).

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015 - Images by Ian MacLennan Copyright 2015
  Having won the World Champs here as a junior in 2008 Ruaridh has had a long career, not to mention a fairly large helping hand in developing the next generation of Scottish World Cup riders. He may have just slipped outside the top twenty this weekend but it's a result he'll be happy with, and in doing so was one of the ten British riders sitting pretty in the top 25. It may have lacked a British win for the ultimate in domination but to have 40% of the field inside the top 25 on home soil is something to be proud of.

UCI World Cup Fort William June 2015
  After taking the win here just twelve months ago Troy arrived in the Scottish Highlands looking for a repeat. He was on the pace, but six seconds adrift from an on-form Minnaar just wasn't close enough. He was there or thereabouts but when the field is as tight as it currently is there's certainly no space for mistakes or indeed anything less than you're A+ game.

There you have it, another year in the history books as far as this event's concerned but the circus never stops and by now should be well on its way to Austria for Round 3. More trials and tribulations will no doubt take place with the obligatory stories to be told afterwards. Stay tuned to Pinkbike for all the latest of those!


MENTIONS: @cloverleaf

Must Read This Week

25 Comments

  • + 11
 Pictures are nice but does every one have to be a close up of the rider railing a corner?

I appreciate it takes skill to get photos that crisp but they all look the same when they are so close to the rider.
  • + 0
 Getting photos that crisp isn't difficult at all, that's just the quality of that lens's autofocus.
  • + 1
 The Canon 70-200 L is an incredible lens, the image quality is always superb. Photography is as much about composition, all this guy has is a fancy lens.
  • + 8
 You should think about composition more. Close up shots are sometimes cool, but if all your shots are same, its boring and actually it does not help you to explore more and it will hardly find your own style. I can imagine this track has epic scenery and pictures can tell more about track.
  • + 1
 Ian MacLennan has never thought about composition. Every one of his photos looks the exact same. If it weren't for the fact that some are famous riders you couldn't even tell when/where they're taken.
  • + 1
 I agree, but.... without all the close ups I would not have been able to hear my daughter say "Sambo had the cutest fender".
  • + 5
 Ah the Ian MacLennan school of photography.

1. Get as close as possible, show absolutely no context. As a guide, try not to let all of the bike/rider fit in the frame at once.
2. Give no thought to composition, people don't care about that, they just want to see things really, really close up.
3. When using a flash, forget about lighting the scene porperly, make it look like it was taken in the middle of the night.
4. By a Canon 70-200 IS L, it automatically takes good pictures for you.
5. The only pose bikers look good in is half way round a berm, railing turns is all there is to DH biking anyway.
6. Know/be related to someone at Pinkbike. Your disguise as a photographer is now complete.
  • + 6
 Great exposure and focus on the shots, but how about a little variety, every rider shot is sooooooo tight. Where's the breathing room?
  • + 8
 Minnaar looks so calm
  • + 1
 its surprising how many riders were wearing loose flappy jerseys instead of more tailored gear like Troy Brosnan or Steve Smith
  • + 1
 Minnaar looks so comfortable, it looks like he can ride down the track while sleeping.
  • + 1
 So much rain, yet no mud tyres ? I wonder if anyone regrets the trade off considering so many people crashed in the trees.
  • + 1
 Why has Sik Mik got XT brake levers?
  • + 1
 Amazing photos ruined by papyrus! Wink
  • + 1
 World Champs at Ft Bill was in 2007, was it not? Either way, awesome pics!
  • + 1
 Yup, it was.
  • + 1
 Why do riders make their visors (Helmet visor) longer in the mud?
  • + 6
 stops rain coming down into their goggles
  • + 1
 @grizzler123 Thanks so Much!!!!!!!!!! I was really Confused!!!
  • + 1
 Beautiful shots!
  • + 0
 So many sweeeeet cornering shots!!
  • - 1
 Pictures too big. But VERY good.
  • + 0
 No the Lens is VERY good. The photos are garbage.
  • - 1
 Amazing photos! Respec!
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