The Classic: Qualifying - Fort William DH World Cup 2017

Jun 3, 2017 at 14:54
by Ross Bell  



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:

Specialized mechanic Kev Joly gets stuck into a wheel build this morning.
Specialized mechanic Kev Joly gets stuck into a wheel build this morning.

Minnaar s right hand man and clearly the mechanic of the moment Jason Marsh no less.
Minnaar's right-hand man and clearly the mechanic of the moment no less, Jason Marsh.

Och Aye the Mik.
Och Aye the Mik.

What to say what to say...
What to say, what to say...

Matt Simmonds throwing the horns on the way up the gondola.
Matt Simmonds throwing the horns on the way up the gondola.

Myriam Nicole happy with her morning practice which followed through to her qualifying too.
Myriam Nicole happy with her morning practice which followed through to her qualifying too.

You re at the mercy of Aonoch Mor now.
You're at the mercy of Aonoch Mor now.

Don t let the blue sky fool you.
Don't let the blue sky fool you.

The last moment of calm before the storm for Rachel Atherton.
The last moment of calm before the storm for Rachel Atherton.

Loic Bruni smashing out a warmup outside the gondola station.
Loic Bruni smashing out a warmup outside the gondola station.

Racers ready...
Racers ready...

Florent Payet bursting out the start gate.
Florent Payet bursting out the start gate.

Tracey Hannah muscles down the first straight en route to 2nd place in qualifying.
Tracey Hannah muscles down the first straight en route to 2nd place in qualifying.

Prying eyes look on as Baxter Maiwald hits the track in junior qualifying.
Prying eyes look on as Baxter Maiwald hits the track in junior qualifying.

The crowds made it all the way tot he top to cheer as Finn Iles drops into the track on his qualifying run.
The crowds made it all the way to the top to cheer as Finn Iles drops into the track on his qualifying run.

After a 5th place top split Troy Brosnan faded back to 14th.
After a 5th place top split, Troy Brosnan faded back to 14th.

It s great to see Jack Moir beginning to get the results his speed and talent deserves.
It's great to see Jack Moir beginning to get the results his speed and talent deserves.

Remi Thirion has his sights set on the podium tomorrow.
Remi Thirion has his sights set on the podium tomorrow.

Sam Blenkinsop is back on the gas and sitting in 6th.
Sam Blenkinsop is back on the gas and sitting in 6th.

Aaron Gwinn might have number 68 on his number board but he wears the number one on his back for a reason.
Aaron Gwin might have number 68 on his number board but he wears the number one on his back for a reason.

Kade Edwards is here for the good times and as a main threat for the junior podium. 4th place today.
Kade Edwards is here for the good times and as a main threat for the junior podium. 4th place today.

Fastest in qualifying for the juniors was Frenchman Sylvain Cougoureux.
Fastest in qualifying for the juniors was Frenchman Sylvain Cougoureux.

Rachel is under all the pressure once again but has been dealing with it quite well this weekend. With a 13 second lead in qualifying she heads into he finals with an added bit of confidence.
Rachel is under all the pressure once again but has been dealing with it quite well this weekend. With a thirteen second lead in qualifying she heads into he finals with an added bit of confidence.

Miranda Miller on the hunt in early morning practice before opting out of her qualie run with concerns her knee wasn t up to it.
Miranda Miller on the hunt in early morning practice before opting out of her qualifying run with concerns her knee wasn't up to it.

Charlie Hatton is perhaps a name not known widely outside the UK. Take note The first year elite smashed the woods visibly quicker than anyone else and that showed in the results sheet with 10th.
Charlie Hatton is perhaps a name not known widely outside the UK. Take note. The first year elite smashed the woods visibly quicker than anyone else and that showed on the result sheet with a 10th.

Aaron Gwin has done more looking about than usual and taking moist of his practice runs slow and steady rather than fully pinned. He is methodical about line choice and knows when how to turn it on once the clock starts ticking.
Aaron Gwin has done more looking about than usual, and taking moist of his practice runs slow and steady rather than fully pinned. He is methodical about line choice and knows when how to turn it on once the clock starts ticking.

Not the performance Tahnee was looking for but knowing she sets some of the fastest splits certainly adds a silver lining to a frustrating day.
Not the performance Tahnee was looking for, but knowing she sets some of the fastest splits certainly adds a silver lining to a frustrating day.

A big crash in practice for World Cup leader Alex Fayolle has his riding a but tighter and more apprehensive than he d have liked in qualifying.
A big crash in practice for World Cup leader Alex Fayolle has his riding a bit tighter and more apprehensive than he'd have liked in qualifying.

It was sunny all morning and during the qualifying sessions but in between this happened.
It was sunny all morning and during the qualifying sessions, but in between this happened.

Luca Shaw finding the grip limits.
Luca Shaw finding the grip limits.

Jacob Dickson has had ridiculous pace this season but couldn t show that in Lourdes with a qualifying mechanical. 11th place today for the Irish youngster.
Jacob Dickson has had ridiculous pace this season but couldn't show that in Lourdes with a qualifying mechanical. 11th place today for the Irish youngster.

Big wheels make the Fort William weather gods angry. Greg Minnaar doesn t care though.
Big wheels make the Fort William weather gods angry. Greg Minnaar doesn't care though.

Lucky for Laurie Greenland he is a protected rider and automatically gets through to the finals despite finishing 119th.
Lucky for Laurie Greenland he is a protected rider and automatically gets through to the finals despite finishing 119th.

Full aggression from Tahnee Seagrave had her fastest at the first split but a trio of crashes lower down the track would knock her back to 7th.
Full aggression from Tahnee Seagrave had her fastest at the first split, but a trio of crashes lower down the track would knock her back to 7th.

Brook the destroyer the only GT rider to qualify this afternoon... He now has 10 seconds to smash off his time.
Brook the destroyer the only GT rider to qualify this afternoon... He now has ten seconds to smash off his time.

Brendog covering the brakes in shock move on track today.
Brendog covering the brakes in a shock move on track today.

Matt Walker made short work of the rocks to go second in the junior s.
Matt Walker made short work of the rocks to go 2nd in the junior's.

Finn Iles was fastest at the top slit but the tell tale dirt on the jersey shows there s plenty more to come tomorrow.
Finn Iles was fastest at the top slit but the tell tale dirt on the jersey shows there's plenty more to come tomorrow.

Myriam Nicole used her big wheels to good effect slotting into third.
Myriam Nicole used her big wheels to good effect slotting into third.

The riding through the woods was not pretty with riders focusing on simply surviving.
The riding through the woods was not pretty with riders focusing on simply surviving.

Adam Brayton hitting the eject button.
Adam Brayton hitting the eject button.

Tahnee Seagrave with oceans of style of the roadgap.
Tahnee Seagrave with oceans of style off the road gap.

By a whisker... Sam Hill made the cut in qualies by just two spots and a single second.
By a whisker... Sam Hill made the cut in qualies by just two spots and a single second.

The Gwizard leaping into fifth through the rooty horror zone that saw over 30 crashes in qualies alone.
The Gwizard, leaping into fifth through the rooty horror zone that saw over 30 crashes in qualies alone.

Adam Brayton certainly took a few big hits out there today... They probably have a brutal crossfit workout just for that so expect him back in contention tomorrow.
Adam Brayton certainly took a few big hits out there today... They probably have a brutal crossfit workout just for that, so expect him back in contention tomorrow.

The GOAT looks ready to push his record on one further and claim Fort Bill win number 7.
The G.O.A.T, looks ready to push his record on one further and claim Fort Bill win number seven.

Sick Mick hooning his way down the moor and later into a safe mid-pack qualifier. After Lourdes there was just too much at stake for some of the top riders and their hefty plate numbers.
Sick Mick hooning his way down the moor and later into a safe mid-pack qualifier. After Lourdes there was just too much at stake for some of the top riders and their hefty plate numbers.

Backing up his podium finish in Lourdes Macelo Gutierrez would come 4th in qualifying.
Backing up his podium finish in Lourdes, Marcelo Gutierrez would come 4th in qualifying.

Loic Bruni was right on the pace through the top split but a big over the bars would push him back to 12th.
Loic Bruni was right on the pace through the top split but a big over the bars would push him back to 12th.

Minnar and the big wheel floating above the chunder.
Minnaar and the big wheel floating above the chunder.

Loris Vergier getting after it with his newfound speed just 2 seconds back on Minnaar.
Loris Vergier getting after it with his newfound speed, just two seconds back on Minnaar.

New to the elites Gaetan Vige is still getting used to the switch onto the Gambler which is famous for being a bit of a tank. 30th today is a good starting point to build the speed.
New to the elites, Gaetan Vige, is still getting used to the switch onto the Gambler, which is famous for being a bit of a tank. 30th today is a good starting point to build the speed.

After missing out on the race day action in Lourdes Phil Atwill sliced his way into the top 20. Just.
After missing out on the race day action in Lourdes, Phil Atwill sliced his way into the top 20. Just.

Missing the qualy by just 2 places was the North s great style merchant Scotty Mears on his way back from a broken elbow and femur last season.
Missing the qualy by just two places was the North's great style merchant Scotty Mears on his way back from a broken elbow and femur last season.

It was only qualifying today but the crowds are already out of hand. This might as well be a photo of Danny Hart after his finals run with all the spectators packed around the finish arena.
It was only qualifying today but the crowds are already out of hand. This might as well be a photo of Danny Hart after his finals run with all the spectators packed around the finish arena.

A couple of huge rainstorms certainly put the boot in today and then the midges bit back with avengeance.
A couple of huge rainstorms certainly put the boot in today and then the midges bit back with a vengeance.

Greg the groundskeeper Williamson aka Gwilly took a couple of massive hits both in training and another to match in qualy. He ll be stiff and sore but as a protected rider thankfully still in the fight tomorrow.
Greg 'the groundskeeper' Williamson aka 'Gwilly' took a couple of massive hits both in training and another to match in qualifying. He'll be stiff and sore, but as a protected rider thankfully still in the fight tomorrow.

Time to get these beasts clean after a filthy day on the hill. A couple of pints should help...
Time to get these beasts clean after a filthy day on the hill. A couple of pints should help...

At close of the play the weathergods we at it again leaving tomorrow more uncertain than ever.
At close of the play the weathergods were at it again, leaving tomorrow more uncertain than ever.

76 Comments

  • + 40
 Great stuff. Thanks for the coverage. Looking forward to tomorrow. I hope the weather is consistent so we can see the best out of the riders. This is probably the first and only post that won't mention diameter.
  • + 46
 Aaron Gwin is already moist
  • + 8
 But you mentioned diameter, never say never!
  • + 5
 @properp: he spilt his covfefe
  • + 1
 @properp: And he was unprotected for the first time in forever.
  • + 5
 @properp: and Iles is fastest at the slit apparently
  • + 13
 What kind of padding are the pro's wearing these days? Seems like knee is a given, some compression shorts, and maybe half of them use elbow (at least from these pics) Is that really all they got on?
  • + 3
 A percentage of them, like Loic and Rat, also used upper suits with back, chest, and some elbow and shoulder protection.
  • + 2
 @mtnbykr05: chest, back, and elbow are often required
  • + 8
 I was wondering what to wear at 6am with a beer in my hand in front of the redbull.tv too
  • + 12
 @endlessblockades: Neck brace is also recommended to watch the redbull.tv coverage. It helps for when you slam your head into your keyboard from the frustration.
  • + 2
 @trasselkalle: that's good, but the Apple TV streams like a champ - redbulltv is a native channel on that thing. Never had a prob.
  • + 2
 @endlessblockades: except last WC in Lourdes. Apple TV fail... I ended up doing iPad ->Apple TV->HD receiver->Plasma. Stooooopid!
  • + 2
 @newenglandrocks: Your Internet connection failed, not Apple TV
  • + 13
 I really hope Sam Hill has a better performance to give in the race run!
  • + 1
 Same here.
  • + 2
 He had 2 crashes in qualifying apparently so his position doesn't tell the full story.
  • + 0
 I don't see Sam Hill finishing high, he's got an EWS overall to think about
  • + 1
 Weather will tell.
  • + 6
 @flymcg: is top 20 high enough?
  • + 1
 @hayden19: #notbad Wink
  • + 1
 @hayden19: surly is! #stoked
  • + 12
 Moist
  • + 10
 That shot of Tahnee mid-corner is an absolute banger!! Loving the looks of the new Transition as well.
  • + 10
 Gwin 4 the win
  • + 7
 Can anyone tell me what happened to explain this caption:
"Brendog covering the brakes in a shock move on track today."

Curious to know~
  • + 26
 His new movie is called deathgrip aka no fingers on the brakes.
  • + 4
 Reference to his "Deathgrip" movie.
  • + 17
 @WolfStoneD: I feel like an idiot now haha thanks!
  • + 6
 @LiquidSpin: it got me too, no worries. Wink
  • + 6
 Women's world cup racing, where you can crash three (3) times and still qualify seventh!

They definitely deserve equal prize money though!
  • - 4
flag ddd (Jun 3, 2017 at 18:13) (Below Threshold)
 go to bed
  • + 5
 They work equally as hard and take equivalent risks, so yes. A racer shouldn't earn more due to gender.
  • + 3
 @jerryhazard: Not because of gender, but what about being better?

Or should we pay them all the same because they all tried equally hard and took equivalent risks?

Isn't the point of racing to find the best?
  • - 1
 Or... you could say 3 crashes in a single run is more fun to watch than a clean one. So for entertainment value they should be paid more! Wink
  • - 1
 @Powderface: that's a reasonable argument!
  • + 5
 Bruni big otb and still 12th?? Negates your snide little comment doesn't it?!!
  • + 0
 @Kathg: does it negate it or support it?

In the men's race, a top rider will lose potentially 12 places per crash.

In the women's race, a top rider will lose potentially 2.4 places per crash.

I would say it supports my snide little comment!

Gender classes are sexist and discriminatory. Combine the classes, combine the prize money. A level playing field for all. They all tried just as hard and took equivalent risks. They all deserve the same shot at the prize money.
  • + 8
 minnaar = beast
  • + 6
 Woods section looks like your average steep BDS/ SDA/ Scottish Enduro series fare. Great stuff
  • + 4
 Would be nice if they showed any of it in the coverage. They always have great coverage of the top and bottum but never show the crux in the middle. It's won and lost in the woods they tell us. Please this year could you show us.
  • + 1
 @choppertank3e: the issue is you'd need a ton of cameras to be able to see anything more than a 10m stretch in the woods. Compare the to the top section where they can probably cover it all with about 3 and you can see why they do it
  • + 1
 What if Rachel took it steady in the first minute or so knowing it's a long, rough, physical track?
Just because Tahnee was faster at split 1 means she has the pace over a 5 minute track?!
Obviously I hope she does as it will make for better racing...
  • + 2
 You guys are killing the coverage ... the photos are absolutely amazing! Looking at them I feel like I am standing right next to the race tape. Thank you!
  • + 1
 Between all the hate on wheelsize and what brand suck the most I still cant fathom all this amazing coverage, for free no less!
  • + 1
 How great would it be if a 26 er is on the top step tomorrow?
Dont get me wrong, I have no issue with any wheel size

it would throw rhe whole industry off.
  • - 2
 Lol can't happen because small weels r zlooowww
  • + 3
 Are there even any 26s left in the field?
  • + 2
 the number 1 on gwin s jersey is not there for nothing: 1 + 68(plate number)= 69
  • + 4
 13 Seconds!!!
  • + 3
 Please let the weather hold out
  • + 0
 Nope, God hates 29'ers
  • + 3
 I sure hope one of you ladies step up and give Rachel a race this weekend.
  • + 22
 I'm sure they'll take your advice and try harder
  • + 7
 @LaXcarp: like they're reading this crap tonight before finals tomorrow lol
  • + 0
 You think this wheel debate is silly? Wait until they start introducing plus sized tyres/bikes into downhill... survival of the fattest
  • + 19
 Pretty sure they could be riding them now if they wanted to. But I think the riders prefer going fast.
  • + 4
 might be waiting a long time...
  • + 2
 Cannot wait for race day gonna be interesting to say the least
  • + 3
 Santa Cruz domination!
  • - 3
 I don't care about SC, I'm just staring at the picture of Myriam Nicole.
  • + 2
 @abzillah: thanks for not blocking my view of Tracy
  • - 7
flag inter71 (Jun 3, 2017 at 16:30) (Below Threshold)
 @abzillah: she's alright.
  • - 5
flag kev1n (Jun 3, 2017 at 18:45) (Below Threshold)
 @inter71: definitely the best looking female rider on the world cup
  • + 16
 @kev1n: I'll just go out on a limb and assume that you are not including WC XC riders in your opinion.
  • + 1
 Some breathtaking photos there, fantastic work pinkbike!
  • + 1
 What's going with a forth lever on Greenland's bike? some shock lockout?
  • + 0
 Phil's at my will. Go Phil!
  • - 2
 I'm massively out of the loop here but when did Blenkinsop switch from flats to clips?
  • + 0
 he always rode clip ...
  • - 1
 @Soucy: Nah he definitely used flats in the past. This is possibly years ago, idk when he changed. Just makes me kinda sad, I remember him absolutely bossing Schladming 08 on flats
  • + 1
 Blenki's been racing on clips for a good few years now, he first raced the WC circuit with flats tho. Same with Bulldog I think?
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