The World Cup kicked off with a surprising start earlier this year in Lourdes, France. The riders with the fastest qualifying times found themselves towards the bottom of the table in the finals due to a torrential downpour that rendered the track sloppy and unmanageable.
The second round of the World Cup took to Fort William in Scotland last weekend. Poor weather throughout the week threatened a replay of round one’s shock ending, however Scotland came through and brought the riders and fans the clear skies they wanted.
Fort William’s challenging 2.8km (1.7 mi.) course is located on the Nevis Range, surrounding the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. The top section is technically challenging, starting above the tree line, and riders must meander through big slabs and rock gardens before heading into the boggy woodlands where those lacking control were forced off their bikes. As the ground of the woodland becomes more solid, the riders spin into the long motorway section before the huge jumps that take them through to the finish line.
America’s Aaron Gwin became the man to beat out of the 84 contestants, having secured a time of four minutes and 44.143 seconds. Everyone looked to the fastest three qualifiers; Jack Moir, Loris Vergier and Greg Minnaar to beat Gwin’s time. Moir mirrored his incredible qualifier and knocked Gwin from pole, Vergier then crashed out, which left Minnaar to try and topple Moir for first place on the podium.
With a clean and fast run through the problematic woods, Minaar took to the motorway with a three second advantage and crossed the line with a clear victory, securing his seventh win in Scotland and his crown as the ‘King of Fort William’. Minaar called Fort William one of his greatest races. Convinced he had lost out on time, Minaar pushed it “110%” and said, ‘I’ve never been that tired towards the bottom of a downhill, I gave it everything.’
The final standings saw Australian Jack Moir in second place and America’s Aaron Gwin in third. The overall World Cup ranking is based on a points system, which are gained from each of the seven World Cup races. Minnaar leads the overall table with 292 points, followed by Colombia’s Marcelo Gutierrez with 290, and Moir in third place.
The World Cup is so far delivering the unexpected, first in Lourdes with the washout final round for the men, and this time we saw the end to Rachel Atherton’s two-year unbeaten run after she crashed and dislocated her shoulder earlier that morning in her practise run. Unable to participate, it left the women’s first place spot up for grabs.
Most eyes turned towards Australia’s Tracey Hannah, who was second in the qualifier and came second in Fort William last year. Hannah traversed the boggy woodland section carefully, putting her feet down to stay in control. She picked up speed as she went flying into the motorway section, closing any gaps in time and sending it cleanly off all the big jumps.
A World Cup winner in 2007 and 2012, Hannah won the Fort William downhill final with a time of 5 minutes and 39.298 seconds, finishing a whole 10 seconds ahead of France’s Myriam Nicole and knocking Emilie Siegenthaler to third position.
In the overall standings, Tracey Hannah is in pole position to win the World Cup, Nicole Myriam is second, and even though Rachel Atherton sat out in Scotland, she’s in third position. Atherton may have missed out at Fort William, but she still considers herself in the running for the World Cup win, on Sunday she reassured the crowd that she’d be at the race this weekend in Austria.
This year’s World Cup has become hard to call, so far we’ve seen unexpected victories and losses and a different top three in the men’s and women’s races. The next round in the UCI Downhill World Cup is this weekend at Leogang, Austria. You can watch all the crashes, jumps and action live on Red Bull TV.