Was This Muddy Wood Section from the Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup Too Dangerous? Some Pros Think So…
“The section was clearly a mess and dangerous. This is racing, not a joke for viewers..."
There were surprises, as Rachel Atherton crashed out in training and ended her 14-World Cup winning streak with a dislocated shoulder. There was drama, as Tracey Hannah came down last to claim the women’s title by a huge 10 seconds and Greg Minnaar followed suit in the men’s – qualifying first and following that up with a third consecutive title at Fort William.
There was also a whole lot of carnage. The weekend was pretty much decided by one particularly muddy stretch of the World Cup track which saw competitors drop into the woods on their way down the mountain and work their way through more sticky mud than you’d find in a stable.
It was this mud that threw Rachel from her bike and saw her injured in training, and in the women’s finals only the top three competitors – Tracey Hannah, Myriam Nicole and Emilie Siegenthaler made it through clean.
It caused chaos in the men’s ranks as well. Numerous top class competitors went down in the mud. Neko Mulally was the only competitor to get through without even a dab – though Minnaar, Jack Moir and Aaron Gwin pinned it well also.
A lot of competitors were less than happy with the mud, most notably British Transition shredder Tahnee Seagrave, who was thrown brutally from her bike in finals.
Writing on her Instagram, Tahnee said: “I don't usually speak out about stuff like this because it is what it is and I don't like moaners, but when something can clearly be helped I feel the need to voice an opinion. Yesterday was awful. To see even the top 20 male riders tripod down and struggle in a small 15 meter section on a 5 minute track was frustrating.
“The section was clearly a mess and dangerous- not because of its difficulty but because of its maintenance. All week riders were making suggestions to improve the quality of the wood section to make a better and more exciting race. We work so hard to be at the level we are, and for something as silly and easy as not listening to the riders was a little disappointing.
“I speak out for many athletes this week end- whether they were winners or back of the pack. This is racing- not an entertainment or joke for viewers. We all want the sport to move forward and progress, so why not work together? Never the less I was blown away by some of the performances out there and history was made. Mega happy for those who owned it. Hopefully we can all learn from this race and improve on future."
There was support from other riders including former World Champion Loic Bruni and second-placed Myriam Nicole in the comments.
Tahnee went on to reply to several users to clear up some common threads in the comments of her update, saying: “if you think im asking for an easier track you have completely misunderstood my post. Me of all people wish to bring back tracks such as Champery and Schladming... far from easy mate!"
She also clarified that she “made it through the wood section clean in practice many times. So yes," she would have spoken out even if she had won in finals, and that: “I think some people are misunderstanding- I love fort William. I love racing and I love difficulty. But when a section is flat and boggy it's not good for RACING. I'm (we're) not asking for an easier section, if anything we were asking for the entry to be maintained so that we had MORE SPEED in to the woods. I crashed 3 times, laughed it off and had fun on the rest of my run. Not everyone had that chance. This post was intended to help and evolve racing, making it better for everyone."
She also added: “I think a lot of people suggested maintaining the entry to the woods better, as there was a huge bog (that you couldn't see on tv) where everyone was getting caught up, so we could carry more speed in the woods and not get caught up on all the flat bog a bit further down!"
Tahnee was far from the only one less than content with the mud. Understandably, having been injured by the set up in practise, Rachel Atherton also posted about it on social media – saying: “Not how I imagined spending Fort William World Cup! Absolutely devastated to dislocate my left shoulder in practice this morning, off the ridiculously slow muddy sticky drop in the woods.... with the help of a guy on the side of the track we relocated it – X-rays show nothing broken but I have to sit out the race today!!! It was SO EMOTIONAL watching the women racing - they all did so good in the horrible conditions in the woods- that wood section was so awful to ride! Mad respect to all the girls racing, but THANK YOU to the crowd & fans for making me feel like I still belong even tho I didn't race! I'll be back!!"
The race has only added further controversy to the World Cup series thus far, after many people claimed that the first race of the season, in Lourdes, should have been called off due to poor weather.