Possibly the best downhill race ever? Check.
This weekend saw the mountain bike Downhill World Cup return to
William for the 10th year running and what a weekend it proved to be. Four dodgy looking guys from planetFear comprising photographers Lukasz Warzecha and Matt Pycroft, pF's editor-in-chief Dave 'Big Mac' MacFarlane and the Keswick store's own Pete Archer who made the long journey up north to see what all the fuss was about.
With the weather looking grim for the weekend - heavy rain and strong winds were forecasted - both riders and spectators were expecting the worst that Scotland can throw up in June. However on quite the contrary we got beautiful sunny weather and the track was dry and dusty, perfect conditions at ‘The Fort'. Practice got underway on Friday with all the riders getting a feel for the revised track that included some new lines. The main talking point was the gnarly looking road-gap that sorted the men from the boys, however Cedric Gracia managed to make it look easy:
Cedric Gracia flies high for the crowd during qualifiers.
Saturday was qualifying and the track was still dry with just the wooded section before the road-gap holding water like a sponge. In the female round Rachel Atherton came back from a shoulder injury to take qualifying from the current world cup leader Tracy Moseley by just .2 sec. Giant's Danny Hart had the run of his life to qualify 3rd, only 1/1000th of a second behind Gee Atherton, a gnats whisker (if such things exist?). Trek World Racing's Aaron Gwin posted the fastest time of the day - 4.49.730 - nearly 2 seconds up on Gee and Danny's time.
Super Sunday dawned and the pF crew rolled into the pits after just a few hours kip (not alcohol related either, some of us do stay until 3am on a Saturday night editing photos and videos!). Even at 8.30am the atmosphere was buzzing, helped by free Monster energy drink. The rain that was forecast held off for the whole day and apart from some minor alterations to the track to improve the flow for riders, conditions were the same as qualifying
The women's finals were a tense affair with Tracy Moseley coming down first with a time of 5.21.898, kicking Floriane Pugin out of the hot-seat by a whopping 7.5 seconds. Last rider down was fastest qualifier Rachel Atherton. Rachel was up at the first split by nearly a second, however by the 2nd split she had lost the lead by just 2 hundredths of a second, nail biting stuff. In the end she crossed the line with a time of 5.23.619 which made Tracy Moseley the winner of the women's 2011 Fort William World Cup allowing her to retain her series leader's jersey.
The men's finals offered more excitement than perhaps ‘The Fort' has ever seen. At one point it was 4 kiwis in the top 4. Two riders expecting a top 5 result were Sam Hill who ended up with a disappointing 9th place along with the living legend that is Steve Peat back in 11th.
New Zealand's Brook MacDonald pulled out a spectacular run from nowhere and held the hot-seat for what seemed an eternity, no one could match his pace through the middle sector of the course. MacDonald placed 3rd overall with his first ever World Cup podium. All eyes were on Giant Bicycle's Danny Hart and he clearly had a couple of tins of man-up before his race run as he barreled down the Aonoch Mor mountainside to put himself into 2nd place, his best ever result at a World Cup and on home turf - congrats Danny.
Santa Cruz Syndicate rider Greg Minnaar pulled out all the stops and set a super fast time of 4.43.854 which in the end saw him take the win making it his 4th Fort William World Cup victory, just 1.3 seconds ahead of Danny Hart.
Fastest qualifier Aaron Gwin blew the crowd away as he crossed the 2nd split 5.5 seconds up on Greg, however he blew himself out and ended up crashing. Still undetermined he got back on the bike and ended up in 5th spot, not bad at all considering his off-the-bike moment!
Images and Interview - Dave MacFarlane
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