A familiar Fort William tale unfolded on the weathered slopes of Aonoch Mor today. The venue is one of the series’ all-time classics and after being on the calendar for so long patterns have long since emerged. One: Looking at the weather forecast is as useful as an ejector seat in a helicopter. Two: Broken bikes and riders are abundant. Three: Rachel Atherton and Greg Minnaar have found a secret answer to taming the beast.
The two hot topics of the weekend were the big wheel debate (which will rumble on for the season) and the fresh middle section into the woods. Both of which proved instrumental in the end results. There was a 50/50 split of 29” and 27.5” in the top ten today which looks especially ominous given the top three were all on the big wheels, although there is more to it than simply announcing a race day white wash. Having big wheels doesn’t make you immune through the woods which have become somewhat of a lottery, with one wrong wheel or weight placement having dire consequences.
The qualifying results sheet only tells half the story. Look throughout the categories and you’ll see top names further back in the pack—some with faster top splits before becoming unstuck further down the track. Finn Iles had a blistering opening minute before hitting the deck, dropping ten seconds back from the fastest junior Sylvain Cougoureaux. A similar story for Tahnee Seagrave who clearly has the pace to challenge Rachel Atherton but is just waiting for it to all fall into place, could it be tomorrow?
Greg Minnaar and Loris Vergier stretched their legs, Greg finding two seconds on Loris and Loris finding two seconds on the chasing pack. In behind them, it gets tight with a lot of guys needing to find time but crucially, with many knowing where to look. But before that you’d better keep scrolling down and get in the mood for some more red hot action that Scotland is sure to serve up tomorrow: