Your Essential Guide to Fort William DH World Cup 2016

May 31, 2016 at 9:49
by Fraktiv  
It's one of the longest and toughest downhill tracks on the UCI World Cup circuit, and one with arguably the best atmosphere, thanks to the hoards of spectators who despite Fort William being pretty remote by UK standards, make the pilgrimage year on year to the wilds of the Scottish Highlands.

Once just a twinkle in the eye of the Forestry Commission and the Nevis Range, since 2001, Fort William has invited mountain bike lovers from all over the world, and in 2002 it played host to its first ever UCI Downhill World Cup. It soon became a classic on the calendar and in 2007, it hosted the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.

Fort William can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Best friend because it's fast, fun and full of challenging features. Worst enemy because with the clock ticking, it's a seemingly endless rollercoaster to the bottom, and you have to be at your peak performance to make it down without having some sort of ache or pain by the time you cross the finish line.

Situated a short drive from Fort William town centre, the downhill track starts a few metres along from the Nevis Range gondola top-station on the slopes of Aonach Mòr, and descends 555m along the 2.8km course. This year the organisers have promised some "new features and changes to add interest and excitement for both riders and spectators", although riders will be hoping it doesn't mess too much with the current track.

Over the intervening years, we've seen so much history here and despite its relative remoteness compared to other World Cup venues, it's still a favourite for many riders and spectators. With Loïc Bruni out with injury, his competitors will be breathing a sigh of relief as Loïc was a hot contender to take the win. Meanwhile in the women's field, Rachel Atherton will be wondering whether her on-track nemeses, Manon Carpenter and Tahnée Seagrave (currently recovering for food poisoning and a sprained elbow respectively, following an eventful weekend at Rhyd Y Felin in the British Downhill Series), will be back and fully race fit.

However, the biggest thing on rider's mind is likely to be remembering the late, great Stevie Smith, as they take to the hill without him for the first time since his tragic death in a motorcycle accident last month.

Emotions will be running high this weekend. #LongLiveChainsaw

Just below the snow line from a few days ago the long walk begins.

the different textures of terrain you see as you work your way down the track here in Fort WIlliam.

Everything is wet.



THE TRACK


Start ramp
Aonach M r



THE OLD FAMILIAR


Back in 2011, Monster Energy hired Alex Rankin to do a 10 Year Retrospective on the history of the venue and the races held on the face of Aonach Mòr. Things were a lot different back then; the post race parties were pretty raucous, as evident in this video. Doesn't everyone look so young? Warning: footage contains Ratboy in Lycra halfway through.



WHAT DO THE RIDERS THINK?

What do the riders themselves think about the Fort William track and what do they think is the most memorable bit about it for them? We asked a few and here's what they said:

Greg Minnaar, Santa Cruz Syndicate
It's one of the toughest tracks on equipment and your body, and probably the most rewarding when jumping in to the finish bowl...when the roaring crowd confirm your time is green.

Emilie Siegenthaler, Pivot Factory Racing
As the track hasn't really changed much since I first rode it in 2008. The wood section is the most unpredictable and special. It does slightly change every year and can become a real minefield if the weather gets nasty. Huge ruts, slippery roots, catchy rocks and that awkward wooden drop...Definitely one of the most exciting parts of the course!

Sam Blenkinsop, Norco Factory Racing
When I think of Fort William, it's one track that has it all; it's long, fast, rough and has some sick jumps. My favourite part would have to be jumping through the arches and just hearing thousands of people cheering for you, it makes you push that much harder. The people and the track definitely make this race so good.

Troy Brosnan, Specialized Racing
I love the Fort William track. For me it's the amount of rocks laid throughout the whole top section making it so brutal on the body and bike to hold on and also go fast! Everyone says it's a big man's track but you don't need to be big to be able to win here Wink



ROB'S POST-QUALIFYING CHIT CHAT


There's nothing quite like completing your qualification run and then having a microphone shoved in your face, but then again, it is Rob Warner so you're bound to get a frank, truthful and gritty perspective on how things went.



WOMEN HAVE IT TOUGH


Last year the weather dealt a cruel card to the riders, saturating the Scottish dirt and creating almost impossible riding conditions (although a few weekends before it was significantly worse at the British Downhill Series race). Two riders took the brunt of the resultant track; Ragot in the woods - in front of loads of spectators and the TV cameras - and Manon at the Visit Scotland (AKA Tissot) jump just before the finish line, and in front of everyone and their dog, TV cameras, videographers, GoPro enthusiasts, photographers, journalists and local dignitaries.

Ouch!



...AND IT WASN'T ALL THAT EASY FOR THE MEN EITHER


Although the track had dried up slight by the time the top 20 Elite Men started riding down, it was entertaining to see they weren't fairing much better than many of the women, sliding around and losing it on track, just the same.



PREDICTION

Essential Guide to Fort William World Cup 2016
bigquotesThere have been two unfortunate losses to the Elite Men's podium contention since Cairns; Stevie Smith (Rest in Peace), and Loic Bruni (who is out for the foreseeable future with a broken collarbone and concussion). My money is on Gwin to continue his solid form, Brosnan will be confident here after coming second in Cairns and Fort William is the only track he's ever won on. Danny Hart has probably raced here more than Peaty and recently fended off an attack from Gee Atherton and Bruni to win here at the recent British Downhill Series race.

My predictions for the Elite women are very similar to my last two predictions and with good reason.The British women are doing themselves proud this year. Rachel seems unstoppable, and although Manon is recovering from a bout of food poisoning and Tahnee has a sprained elbow, I can't see those small handicaps making any difference to their final result this Sunday. - Paul Aston, Pinkbike's World Cup Soothsayer


THE FANS

You lose just one bet with a funny sense of humor and you end up spectating at the Fort like this... Shane Townshend in the wedding dress and heckling with a vengeance. Colin Meagher

Today was a day of Popes Pirates Santas Giant Squirrels and all other manner of reveler. We were in mass today just a different kind of mass.
These two were stumbling down the track yelling to the pub The more beer you drink at Fort William the easier it is to navigate down the hill - which was slicker than snot on a door knob today.

Fort William 2015

Fort William officially has the best fans around. Period. In fact the fans and atmosphere in general have helped it to win the UCI's 'Best DH' venue/race award many times over the past decade and a half. If bin bags, ballgown dresses - no, we don't mean kilts, but they're on show too - and the odd Pope's outfit aren't your thing, then being trackside at Fort William sees fans festooned with all sorts of noise-making appliances, ready to aurally assault the riders as they fly past.



CASUALLY CLOCKING UP ANOTHER WORLD CUP WIN


Fort Bill has been a memorable place for South African champ, Greg Minnaar. Not only did he manage to equal his team mate and DH legend, Steve Peat for World Cup wins here at Fort William, he also clocked-up his 100th World Cup race here a few years back too. No one comes close to the five World Cup wins scored by Greg at Fort William in the men's field, although British legend Tracy Moseley is currently the most successful female rider, but what are the odds that Rachel will soon sail by that achievement? Back to Greg though. Doesn't he make it look so easy in this video?



THE WEATHER

WC R3 Fort William Weather 2016



I'M FINE, IT'S NO URGENT THING

Views: 144,290    Faves: 147    Comments: 14

Last year Josh Bryceland had a run in with a tree during practice. The sound created from the thud woke nearby sleeping babies. "I'm fine, it's no urgent thing", said Ratboy as he was tended to my medics. He's such a polite young man. Although Josh wasn't seriously injured, the crash left him pretty winded and sadly not on form come race day.



LAST ORDERS


Sadly, 2016 represents Peaty's last World Cup race at Fort William, so he's putting up a bar which will be serving beer with his name on it, thanks to Bradfield Brewery. The bar will also be taking donations on behalf of the Stevie Smith Legacy Fund. We'll drink to that!



14 YEARS OF WINNING

ELITE MEN RESULTS - FORT WILLIAM
DATEPOSITIONNAMETEAMWINNING TIMEGAP
20151stGreg MINNAARSanta Cruz Syndicate4:47.693-
20152ndAaron GWINSpecialized Racing4:48.812 +1.119ss
20153rdMarcelo GUTIERREZ VILLEGASGiant Factory Off-Road Team4:51.740 +4.047s
20141stTroy BROSNANSpecialized Racing4:36.580 -
20142ndSam HILLCRC / Nukeproof4:38.239+1.659ss
20143rdDanny HARTGiant Factory Off-Road Team4:38.656+2.076s
20131stGee ATHERTONGT Factory Racing4:36.712-
20132ndBrook MCDONALDTrek4:37.854+1.142s
20133rdSteve SMITHDevinci Global Racing4:38.073 +1.361s
20121stAaron GWINTrek4:48.210-
20122ndDanny HARTGiant4:49.044+0.834s
20123rdGee ATHERTONGT Factory Racing4:50.726 +2.516s
20111stGreg MINNAARSanta Cruz Syndicate4:43.854-
20112ndDanny HARTGiant4:45.153+1.299s
20113rdBrook MCDONALDMS Evil Racing4:45.788+1.934s
20101stGee ATHERTONCOM104:35.700-
20102ndCam COLETMR104:36.180 +0.480s
20103rdGreg MINNAARSCB104:36.910+1.210s
20091stGreg MINNAARSCB094:38.980-
20092ndSam HILLMER094:40.430+1.450s
20093rdSam BLENKINSOPYET094:41.850+2.870
20081stGreg MINNAARSCB084:43.52-
20082ndGee ATHERTONANC084:46.69+3.17s
20083rdSteve PEATSCB084:47.4+3.90
2007*1stSam HILLAustralia4:52.01-
2007*2ndFabien BAREL-4:52.65+0.64s
2007*3rdGee ATHERTONGreat Britain4:56.38+4.37s
20061stSam HILLAustralia4:25.33-
20062ndCédric GRACIAFrance4:26.59+1.26s
20063rdGreg MINNAARTeam G-Cross Honda4:27.64+2.31s
20051stSteve PEATTeam Orange4:11.44-
20052ndGreg MINNAARTeam G-Cross Honda4:13.57+2.13s
20053rdNathan RENNIE-4:14.83+3.39s
20041stGreg MINNAARTeam G-Cross Honda4:10.24-
20042ndCédric GRACIASiemans Mobile Cannondale4:13.60+3.36s
20043rdSam HILL-4:14.13+3.89s
20031stCédric GRACIASiemans Mobile Cannondale4:08.05-
20032ndMickael PASCALMaxxis MSC4:09.16+1.11s
20033rdNathan RENNIE-4:09.92+1.87s
20021stChris KOVARIK-4:33.98-
20022ndCédric GRACIAVolvo Cannondale4:48.00+14.02s
20023rdNathan RENNIE-4:48.00+14.02s

Note: * denotes UCI World Championship race.

The first ever downhill World Cup podium for Colombia and the first ever for a Norco rider.

ELITE WOMEN RESULTS - FORT WILLIAM
DATEPOSITIONNAMETEAMWINNING TIMEGAP
20151stRachel ATHERTONGT Factory Racing5:31.654-
20152ndTahnée SEAGRAVEFMD Racing5:39.643+7.989s
20153rdEmmeline RAGOTMS Mondraker5:47.576+15.922s
20141stEmmeline RAGOTLapierre Gravity Republic5:12.624 -
20142ndMyriam NICOLECommencal Riding Addiction5:21.334 +8.710s
20143rdTracey HANNAHHutchinson UR5:26.600 +13.976s
20131stRachel ATHERTONGT Factory Racing5:08.846-
20132ndManon CARPENTERMadison Factory Racing5:18.9854+10.139s
20133rdEmmeline RAGOTLapierre Gravity Republic5:20.219 +11.373s
20121stEmmeline RAGOTMS Mondraker5:27.089-
20122ndRachel ATHERTONGT Factory Racing5:28.404 +1.315s
20123rdMyriam NICOLECommencal Riding Addiction5:36.505 +9.416s
20111stTracy MOSELEYTrek5:21.898-
20112ndRachel ATHERTONCommencal5:23.619+1.721s
20113rdFloriane PUGINScott 115:29.428+7.530s
20101stSabrina JONNIERTMR105:11.570 -
20102ndRachel ATHERTONCOM105:12.680+1.110s
20103rdFloriane PUGINSCB105:16.440 +4.870s
20091stTracy MOSELEYTRK095:17.650-
20092ndMyriam NICOLE-5:26.670+9.020s
20093rdMelissa BUHL-5:30.60+12.950
20081stTracy MOSELEYKBC085:20.87-
20082ndSabrina JONNIERTMX085:25.01+4.14s
20083rdRachel ATHERTONANC085:26.76+5.89s
2007*1stSabrina JONNIERFrance5:28.35-
2007*2ndRachel ATHERTONGreat Britain5:32.36+ 4.01s
2007*3rdTracey HANNAHAustralia5:39.89+11.54s
20061stTracy MOSELEYKona Les Gets5:12.05-
20062ndRachel ATHERTONGiant/Team Animal5:19.63+7.58s
20063rdSabrina JONNIER-5:20.94+8.89s
20051stTracy MOSELEY-4:59.97-
20052ndRachel ATHERTON-5:00.89+0.92s
20053rdSabrina JONNIER-5:02.02+2.05s
20041stAnne-Caroline CHAUSSONCommencal Oxbow4:53.20-
20042ndSabrina JONNIER-4:55.32+2.12s
20043rdHelen GASKELL-4:57.86 +4.66s
20031stCéline GROSMorzine Avoriaz4:42.57-
20032ndSabrina JONNIER-4:45.44+2.87s
20033rdEmmeline RAGOTMaxxis MSC4:49.57+7.00s
20021stTracy MOSELEY-5:45.99-
20022ndVanessa QUIN-5:52.47+6.48s
20023rdSabrina JONNIER-5:56.63+10.64s

Note: * denotes UCI World Championship race.

Four British women out of five on the Fort William podium for 2015.



FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS

Fire in the hole... Stevie smith back in the gate. Qualifying 7th and looking good on track today we think it won t be long before he s back to his old self.

Stevie Smith never had much luck at Fort William. His best result was third place in 2013, the same year he secured his first and only UCI MTB DH overall title. The following year at Fort William marked his return to racing after injuring his ankle in New Zealand by achieving sixth place.

As riders take to the start hut overlooking Aonach Mòr this weekend, the global mountain biking community will collectively take a moment to remember the man who changed the face of Canadian mountain biking forever. We'll leave the last words to Stevie...

bigquotesI wanna do good like I always try. - Stevie Smith, Devinci Global Racing, speaking at Fort William in 2014




The finals takes place on Sunday 5th June, with the live broadcast commencing at 14:30 local time.

Stay tuned to Pinkbike.com for all the latest news from the third round of the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup 2016 throughout the weekend, including live timing, photo stories and tech content.




MENTIONS: @geebeebee / @natedh9 / @paulaston / @mdelorme / @FRNZ / @Specialized / @trek / @giantbicycles / @redbullbike / @Fox-Head-Inc / @devinci / @norcobicycles




75 Comments

  • + 227
 This has to be one of the best preview articles ever. Nice work and thanks for all the effort!
  • + 0
 I just saw someone I used to know
  • + 8
 Couldn't agree more, makes me feel old though knowing Gracia won on his Cannondale 13 YEARS AGO!
  • + 1
 double double
  • + 2
 @sewer-rat: know what you mean. I was there in 2004 when Minnar won on the Honda - seems like yesterday.
  • + 4
 no doubt!! This Pinkbike just keeps getting better and better! nice work guys!
  • + 71
 While waiting for Claudio, here is the Track preview video in KILTS !!!!

m.vitalmtb.com/videos/member/Fort-William-World-Cup-DH-Track-Preview-in-Kilts,31584/sspomer,2

VitalMTB killed it !!!!!!! Smile
  • - 3
 Better than claudio these guys nailed it!!
  • + 26
 It's a great video, but it's actually made by Descent World.
  • + 10
 the translations! ahaha
  • + 14
 I think they may actually introduced a new quality in course preview. Claudio get yer wee arse to work!
  • - 2
 @WAKIdesigns: claudio should innovate imo... It s the same thing for three years (WC speaking)
  • + 7
 Thanks for the props @RedBurn ! It's a Descent-World video but we couldn't have made it without the riders help, they killed it for us!
  • + 3
 Best course preview I've ever seen. Absolutely hysterical.
  • + 2
 Great preview! "Look at that, some Highland Whiskey!", lol.
  • + 3
 *Whisky
  • + 1
 Bloody brilliant!
  • + 18
 Alright PB, get ready to post the "Rachel Wins [insert location here]" article that we know you have ready and waiting.

Oh, and Troy, I read your comment about being the little guy... Don't worry, you will always be faster than all of us.
  • + 6
 BULLDOG FTW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • + 17
 And I still get tears in my eyes when I see him. He will be there in spirit I know. Such a good kid. Cheers
  • + 12
 Have we heard what is exactly happening with the Stevie smith run memorial run? Anybody know?
  • + 14
 Peaty's pub? BRING IT ON
  • + 10
 My body is ready......
  • + 12
 I've got my money on Danny Hart....
  • - 4
flag trauty (May 31, 2016 at 13:39) (Below Threshold)
 no. it will be dry
  • + 4
 @trauty: it was dry at the BDS
  • + 2
 Same here...this is Danny's
  • + 13
 FINALLY
  • + 11
 No kidding - the nearly month-long break is insufferable. UCI fix that pls.
  • + 5
 @endlessblockades: ward, the world cups should run every weekend from may thru september....
  • + 10
 ah, fresh tears..
  • + 7
 Where's the talk about Sam Hill.... Fresh off his EWS podium and healed up this year, Hills still a threat for the top of the box.
  • + 9
 That was some win for Kovarik in 02, 14.02 seconds!
  • + 8
 Seen him ride a few times and you always had to be on the lookout for the wave of rocks coming down with him. Absolute animal on a bike. Destroyer!
  • + 2
 Largest margin of victory ever in men's World Cup DH I think?

Edit: Is there video of that run? I can't find it.
  • + 9
 Claudio...where are you! Smile
  • + 5
 Was lucky enough to be there in 02, Kovarik coming through like a nitro charged bulldozer, been back quite a few times since, never seen anything like it, totally amazing. Still my fave rider.
  • + 8
 Making the pilgrimage this year. Going to be off the scALE!!
  • + 3
 Thats Peatys scALE!!
  • + 7
 Look Gee time in 2013 with 26 "wheels. So fast...
  • + 7
 Can't wait for #12 riding down the mountain..
#longlivechainsaw
  • + 4
 There's just something about the British which makes them have the best humor.
  • + 5
 The earth quakes in anticipation from such glory !!!
  • + 4
 Just here counting down the hours until my flight leaves.......72 hours
  • + 3
 You boys need to get the greg, kenta and Ben track preview on pinkbike. Claudio won't come close.
  • + 4
 Alex Rankin retrospective is sooo awesome.
  • + 4
 Stevie Smith in the quali interviews. :-( Miss him already.
  • + 2
 Those that didn't know Red Bull tv through your smart tv apps televise all the xc and dh wc races. Rob warner does the commentary. Jump on
  • + 5
 Peaty for the win!!
  • + 3
 While Peaty isn't going at add to his win total, he did have a smashing result at the last BDS race, albeit without Gee or Hart in attendance. Hoping he pulls off a top 25 or therebouts.
  • + 4
 @jackalope: nope nope Peaty is going out in a blaze of stella soaked glory! Wink
  • + 2
 great article. anyone know if spectators need tickets or anything like that? or where to park?
  • + 1
 I think you can buy them on the day and there's a shuttle bus that runs from the town centre
  • + 1
 most spectators park in the town and use the park and ride scheme. You will get turned back (on race day) if you try and park close to the event. You need and can buy a ticket at the gate on arrival. Prices vary if you want a weekend or day pass and if you want to use the gondola.
  • + 1
 Kovariks win in 02, 14 odd seconds, biggest winning margin ever at a Dh world cup? legend!
  • + 0
 What the ... Ratboys skin suit has to be the worst piece of cycling apparel, never mind DH outfits I have ever seen. Hoever got him to wear that should be flogged :-)
  • + 1
 Such a nice insider to FW but all tat aside... anyone knows what happened with Nathan RENNIE??? Where is he???
Beer
  • + 2
 Fort william had one of the best fish and chips spots around too
  • + 3
 Stoked
  • + 2
 Never count out Minnaar...ever
  • + 2
 No work for me Monday, might have my own bar running.
  • + 2
 The greatest show on earth.
  • + 3
 winded as fook
  • + 1
 #longlivechainsaw It is going to be fukkin special.
  • + 1
 Roll on early hours Friday bring it on
  • + 1
 What's going on? I'm waiting for hours, has Claudio retired?
  • + 1
 That was fuckin sick. Great video. Step up your game PB
  • + 1
 OMG Ratboy on Lycra is really killin it...made my day :-D
  • + 1
 Sam Hill .. he's hungry even was nearly snatch 1 EWS .. he's out of radar!
  • + 1
 s peat 2005 4m11s , gwin 4m40s-ish. pls explain
  • + 5
 Either variations to the track and/or weather conditions.
  • + 5
 The track was extended in 2007 for the world champs. All the top gravely corners and boardwalks were added then
  • + 1
 Anyone know if Maes is racing the DH?
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