The Fort William leg of the Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup is always an incredible event. There are always rowdy crowds, a great course and probably the best atmosphere anywhere in the world.
But few Scottish races in the past can have matched this one for drama or excitement.
“Few Scottish races in the past can have matched this one for drama or excitement.”
Going into the weekend, things were looking good for the British contingent. Both Rachel and Gee Atherton were coming in off the back of wins in Cairns, and with Gee having cleaned up at the British Downhill Series event at Fort William a few weeks ago, things were looking good.
In the women’s race, fellow Brit Manon Carpenter was also definitely in contention coming into the weekend. With a first place in Pietermaritzburg followed by a second in Cairns, she’d kicked off her season in style.
British hopes are punctured
Unfortunately despite the high hopes and the partisan cheering of the crowd, it wasn’t to be for either of the British women.
Rachel Atherton, Manon Carpenter and the third-placed Brit Tahnée Seagrave all suffered flat tyres on the tricky course, taking them out of contention. The mishap was particularly galling for Manon as she’d grabbed the top time in qualifying.
This left France’s Emmeline Ragot to take the win ahead of her compatriot Myriam Nicole, with Australia’s Tracey Hannah grabbing third.
Troy springs a surprise of Trojan proportions
As if that wasn’t enough drama for one weekend, the men’s race saw one of the most incredible results of this – or indeed any other – season.
Troy Bresnan sprung a surprise of Trojan proportions, coming seemingly from out of nowhere to win qualifying and then take his first ever World Cup Downhill win on the tricky course.
Not only did Troy trump the much fancied Mr Atherton, but he also beat last year’s overall champion Stevie Smith (who’s made a welcome return to racing after missing the first two events following surgery) and overall leader Aaron Gwin.
In the end Gee Atherton managed a fifth place – just behind Gwin but just ahead of Smith. It wasn’t what he (or the British crowd) wanted, but it does keep him firmly in contention for the title.
Danny Hart helped salvage a bit of home nation pride by grabbing the third spot on the podium with a blisteringly fast run that put him just fractions of a second behind Sam Hill in second place.
But the day really belonged to the first time winner Troy, who we’ll be watching with interest as the season progresses!