Over the weekend of the 6th, 7th and 8th of July 2014 the worlds best downhill mountain bike racers, their vast collective entourage, and thousands of spectators descend on town of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands for the UCI MTB DH World Cup. Running side by side is the World 4X Pro-Tour, another impressive race to watch.
The Fort William World Cup race is acknowledged by many to be the best race in terms of atmosphere on the World Cup circuit. Huge crowds gather every year to cheer on the likes of Rachel Atherton, Manon Carpenter, Emiline Ragot and Tracy Hannah as they battle their way down the mountain side.
The rocky track, the dark forest, the long final motorway section, the big finish area, the stands with crowds, the race pits, the people in fancy dress, and even the midges – it’s all part of the events electric atmosphere.
Can’t make it there in person? Don’t worry, RedBull TV will be broadcasting the action from the DH finals live. Tune in and cheer!
Fort William World Cup
When: 6th to the 8th June 2014
Location: Fort William, Scotland
Tickets: Weekend Pass (Sat & Sun) £42.40, World Cup Pass (Fri, Sat & Sun) £51, Day Pass (with Gondola) £23, Day Pass (without Gondola) £15.50, concessions and children’s tickets available.
How to get there: Nearest station is Fort William, nearest airport is Glasgow or Edinburgh. It’s a long walk from the town to the Nevis Range site, but handily there will be shuttle buses running over the
More info: Fort William World Cup
Watch online: Red Bull TV
The Nevis Range base course snakes down from high up on Aonach Mor, descending 555m over 2.8km. It’s a long track. Riders access the top of the course via a gondola, as the Nevis Range is a ski resort by winter.
The top part of the course is on the open hillside. It’s rocky and exposed, so when the weather is good it’s beautiful, but when the weather is bad conditions can be treacherous. From there, the course enters the forest, with large off-camber root sections, gap jumps and wall rides.
The final section, and the home straight, is a long and flatish motorway to the finish line. A few table tops and the riders will come over the final jump into sight of the finish line and the massive crowd of spectators with just enough time for a few crucial final pedal strokes.
It requires fitness, skill, fitness and nerves of steel. And did we mention fitness?
Who to watch
Rachel Atherton, GT Factory Racing – The current World Champion and overall World Cup Champion. Rachel took the win at Fort William last year, with her brother Gee winning the men’s finals. Can she do it again this year?
Manon Carpenter, Madison Saracen Team – Manon was hot on the heels of Rachel throughout the 2013 World Cup season. She started 2014 with a bang, winning the first round in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. She’s stated that winning at Fort Bill is one of her aims for the year – stand by for some exciting racing.
Emmeline Ragot, Lapierre Gravity Republic Team – The French rider took the win here in 2012, and has performed consistently highly over the subsequent seasons. Coming 5th in the first round in South Africa and 4th in round 2 in Australia, she’ll be fighting hard to take the top spot.
What happens over the weekend?
The course is checked by UCI officials on Thursday, and opens for practice. The aim here is for racers to try perfect their times and moves, riding the route again and again until they have memorized every root, rock and drop.
On Friday there is more practice, including timed practice where competitors can get a feel for how fast they are completing the track, and where they can increase speed.
Saturday is the qualifying run, which followed by a final track walk. Head over at 18.00 to watch and cheer the 4X Pro-Tour finals and awards ceremony.
Sunday is race day. This is what all those uplifts and runs have been for. Time to see if the practice has been enough! The women’s final starts at 13.15, and the men’s at 14.00. After that, it’s time for the awards ceremony, and some epic celebrations.
Check out the full event schedule at the Fort William World Cup Schedule page.
The Racers – Expect to see the top professional downhill mountain bikers in action on the track. You’ll also likely see them warming up in the pits, and generally walking around. Look out for World Champion Rachel Atherton who won at Fort William last year – the Atherton Racing truck is hard to miss.
The Race Teams – Behind each racer there’s a team of people working to help them ride their very best. This includes mechanics, team managers, physios, and more.
The Fans – An essential ingredient in the success of Fort Bill, the fans that cheer, whoop and generally support the riders are worth a mention themselves. Look out for the super-fans with team kit, fancy dress, and placards!
What is there to do?
Going to spectate? There’s lots to keep you entertained. Obviously there’s a lot of world class racing to watch. You can catch the gondola up the mountain and watch the riders practice. If the weather is good, a walk up or down the length of the track is worth it to see the size of the obstacles the racers are riding; it’s always more impressive in person than in the pictures.
There are also stands and stalls selling everything from magazine subscriptions to the latest kit, if you fancy a little retail therapy.
Don’t forget to walk around the pit area and maybe chat to a mechanic or pro-MTBer or two, although it’s probably best not to do this just before the finals on race day.
And of course we’ll be there! If you see us roaming around, stop us and say hi!