Thursday Jun 04, 2015

Downhill World Cup 2015: Fort William Preview

The Downhill World Cup kicked off in Lourdes but this weekend it returns to a true Mecca of mountain biking – Fort William.

Known for being one of the toughest tracks on the circuit, and attracting the most passionate fans, the Scottish stop on the tour is always highly anticipated.

This year the huge crowd will be welcoming two British World Champions. Gee Atherton won the men’s event while Manon Carpenter took the gold and also claimed the World Cup title. Men’s World Cup champion Josh Bryceland will also be looking to give the home fans something to cheer about. But as always there is an international contingent of world class riders looking to spoil the party, including winners in Lourdes Aaron Gwin and Emmeline Ragot.

Here’s what they are up against!

The Track

Fort William is home to one of the gnarliest tracks in the world and many riders warm up for the main event by racing the course in the British Downhill Series – as last year’s winner Troy Brosnan did to great effect.

At 2.8km long the course in the Scottish Highlands is technical and physically challenging. It is extremely exposed at the top but also includes brutal rock gardens, tight trees and the infamous motorway, which dominates the bottom third and favours a strong peddler.

However tired the riders are though, flying over the final few jumps in front of the mammoth crowd is always something to look forward to. Unless, of course, you experience one of the many inevitable technical problems that come with such a brutal race.

The History

Experience usually helps you at Fort William. Most riders who have won in Scotland have done so multiple times and Greg Minnaar, Sam Hill, Tracy Moseley and Sabrina Jonnier have all done it back-to-back.

In 26 men’s and women’s races over 13 years, there has only been 14 different winners. However, Australian rider Troy Brosnan surprised everyone when he claimed victory last year, becoming the only man to win his first world cup in Fort William.

Can he do it again this year, or will there be another new face at the top of the podium?

Steve Peat won in Fort William back in 2005, his only victory at the event

The Contenders

Men’s Event

Greg Minnaar

The most successful man ever in Fort William, the South African rider has four wins to his name including three in four years between 2008 and 2011. He knows how to win on this track.


Troy Brosnan

Although he is the defending champ in Fort William, Brosnan is yet to win his second World Cup race. As a smaller rider he shouldn’t be this good on a course that needs so much pedaling but he seems at home in Scotland and will believe he can repeat his incredible 2014 run.


Loic Bruni

Still searching for his first World Cup win, the Frenchman came agonisingly close yet again in Lourdes. Surely it is only a matter of time before the youngster tops a podium for a first time but can he follow in Brosnan’s footsteps and do it in Scotland?


Women’s Event

Manon Carpenter

She may have won the World Cup title and World Championships in style last year but a flat tire robbed her of a victory on British soil in Fort William. Victory here is one thing missing from the Welsh rider’s CV.


Rachel Atherton

The British rider was caught cold at Fort William last year. She was suffering from illness for the opening few rounds of the series and got DQ’d after a spectator helped her with a flat tire. She will be searching for redemption this year.

Tahnee Seagrave

Rounding off Britain’s brilliant female trio, Seagrave picked up a bronze at the World Champs last year, but is yet to top a World Cup podium. It will be big ask to do so in Fort William but, with the home crowd cheering her on, who knows.


The Verdict

With their knowledge of the track and the crowd roaring them over the line, expect to see Brits dominating the top ten. But they also have form on their side. Michael Jones, Danny Hart, Sam Dale and Brendan Fairclough all placed in the top six in Lourdes while Bryceland continued his impressive comeback from injury.

In the women’s event Ragot will be looking to go back-to-back, while Tracey Hannah started well at Round 1, but Carpenter and Atherton will be determined to claim the title in Scotland. As always, anything can happen at the Downhill World Cup and Fort William will be as unpredictable as ever.

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