Fort William has been on the World Cup circuit since 2002. It’s the only UK destination on the World Cup MTB scene and it’s developed quite the reputation for having one of the most volatile weather climates, and for having a seriously challenging track.
Early last week the world’s best athletes made their way up north for Round 2 of the UCI World Cup. After a wash out event at Round 1 in Lourdes last month, riders considered Fort Bill to be the first true round of the season.
In true Scottish form, the rains had descended prior to race day, but on the whole, the weather was considerably better than in previous years. With many crashes during practice and qualifiers, our first inkling that something was wrong came on race day when we learnt of Rachel Atherton’s dislocated shoulder in practice. The reigning queen of downhill took a hard hit in the wooded section where a bystander helped pop her shoulder back in place, sending her off to the hospital and forfeiting the race.
The elite women’s got underway at 13:00 and it was clear that a section of the track had been so churned up from numerous rides, rain and wet roots that no rider was able to make it safely down without taking a foot or two off the pedals. A number of women and men went straight over the bars, creating a heart-in-mouth experience for us viewers.
By 15:00 when the elite men made their race runs, it was clear that although the wooded section appeared to be drying out, it was a long way off from being safe. When the world’s best athletes struggle to make it down a short section, you know it’s pretty bad.
One rider to has spoken out about the poor conditions of the Fort Bill track is Tahnée Seagrave.