Fort William will open its surprisingly sunny doors to the best British and even international riders this weekend for the second round of the re-jigged National Series.

Since 2012, it's been put on as a World Cup warm up, usually two or three weeks before the big event to give the riders chance to dial in their lines early and enjoy a less fatiguing weekend at the big event. Once again it has attracted a stellar field with Scott, Madison, Commencal, Unno, Transition, Trek and Polygon all sending riders over to face the Bill - Bruni was also signed up earlier in the year but has pulled out due to the injury he picked up in Croatia.

Here's a look at the track from Ben Cathro. The top section has been built up after a record amount of snow run-off. There's also the new World Cup woods to consider. They won't be raced at the National but you can get a sneak peak of the new rock garden section from Ben's helmet cam. Cathro's verdict? "Not easy".

If history is anything to go by, the men's race is going to be a slugging match between Gee and Danny. Hart has won four of the races while Gee picked up back-to-back wins in 2014 and 2015. Last year's lottery aside, at least one of the pair have gone on to podium at the World Cup (or win as Gee did in 2012) in those years. How much of this is down to this warm up race is debatable. Gee was a constant threat at Fort William from 2004 when he finished fourth and Hart picked up his first ever Elite podium in 2011 there with a second but the consistency of these two riders on this venerable track is what is unquestionable here.

Could this year be different though? In Cwmcarn we saw a shake up as Matt Walker trumped Hart to the win and he put five seconds into Iles here last year to take the juniors, could he take this chance to shatter the Gee/Danny dominance? Other riders to watch out for are local lad Reece Wilson, who had a coming-of-age 11th at the World Cup here last year and Amaury Pierron who is marauding over from France on 29 inch wheels to pilfer some British gold.

In the women's race, we can't see anything other than the customary tussle between Atherton and Seagrave. Questions loom over Rach after she turned up but decided not to race last year and then dislocated her shoulder, ending her unbeaten run at the World Cups a fortnight later. However, she has definitely had the stronger start to the season of the two women and her three World Cup wins here can't be overlooked. Myriam Nicole will also be in the Highlands but this is a track she's never won on and previous BDS results of 6th, 10th and a DNS indicate she'll be using it more as a sighter than a full-blooded stab at glory.

Here's all the info from British Cycling:

The 2018 HSBC British Cycling National Downhill Series continues with its second round at Nevis Range, Fort William in Scotland on May 12th and 13th.

The Fort William British national race is a favourite for the sport’s big guns who use it as a warm for the upcoming World Cup at the same venue. The sold-out field includes homegrown heroes Danny Hart, Brendan Fairclough, Gee Atherton, Rachel Atherton and Tahnee Seagrave as well as international elites Thibaut and Gaetan Ruffin, Remi Thirion, Alexandre Fayolle and 2017 overall World Cup winner Myriam Nicole.

The race is the second in the brand new British National Downhill Series and is organised by the team behind the Scottish Downhill Association.

The Fort William British National event is a firm favourite with riders and offers them the chance to test their skills on the UK’s toughest race track. It is the UK’s only World Cup track and gives racers proper, first-hand experience of racing at an international level alongside some of the World’s fastest elites.

The race is classed as a UCI Category 1 event and is the only UK downhill event where elite riders can bag UCI points.

As an added bonus, the National 4X Series will race alongside the downhill with motos held on Saturday night and promises great action for riders and spectators.

The track and the venue

The race track descends 555m and is over 2.5km in length. It throws riders across a high speed mix of rocks, roots and big jumps with stunning views across Loch Linnhe. It’s one of the UK’s most challenging tracks with a race winning time coming in at around 4.5 minutes.

The race track will be taped out from 11th May and available for riders to walk the course, with official practice all day on Saturday and Sunday morning.

Spectators are welcome

As with all British National events, spectators are welcome. There will be no charge for spectators at this event.

The event village will guarantee the best show of the year for spectators with World Cup teams and riders in attendance. Spectators will be able to meet World Cup superstars and see their pro-pits, equipment and support crews in action. It’s a racing fan's best chance to meet their heroes outside of a World Cup. Almost all of the track is visible from the gondola, offering an unmatched experience of the racing.

The Nevis Range’s Pinemarten cafe will be open and serving freshly prepared food and drink from local suppliers to keep spectators and racers fuelled up. For those making the trip up on the gondola, the Snowgoose restaurant and bar offers great refreshments with stunning views and a great spot to watch the racing.

Supporting the event

The Shimano Tech Team, Sprung Suspension and Schwalbe tyres will be on hand to support the riders and there will be prizes from Horizon Watches, Start Fitness and more.

British Cycling will provide cash prizes to the Elite and Junior Men and Women’s categories.

Sold-out Field

Entries are now closed for the race and are not available in advance or on the day.

Event schedule

08:00 23:00 Venue open
10:15 14:45 Gondola open with bike access
15:00 17:30 Commissaire course walk / inspection
16:00 Course open for on-foot inspection
15:00 20:00 Registration office open
23:00 Venue closed – no access

07:00 Venue open. Course open for on-foot inspection
07:30 09:30 Registration office open
07:30 Marshal, media, commissaire, organiser, first aid, chief marshal briefing
08:15 1st gondola – Marshals and Medics
09:00 1st gondola – Riders
09:30 Training – all categories EXCLUDING Elite / Expert
10:30 Training – all categories
12:00 4X registration opens
13:00 4X practice (80% of the track)
15:00 Full runs only DHI and 4X gate practice
17:00 Training – Expert / Elite and top 5 ranked Juniors
17:30 Last gondola
18:00 DH Course closed and 4X motos
18:15 Riders / Managers meeting
18:30 Course open for on-foot inspection
23:00 Venue closed

07:00 Venue open
07:30 Marshal, media, commissaire, organiser, first aid, chief marshal briefing
08:15 1st gondola
08:45 Training – All categories, full runs only
10:45 11:00 Training – ELITE only
11:15 Seeding runs
14:30 Race runs
17:45 Presentation – top 5 each class
19:00 Venue closed and cleared.

The venue:

The race is being held at:

Nevis Range,
Fort William,
PH33 6SW

By Car:
The postcode for Nevis Range ski area is PH33 6SQ.

By Air:
Inverness is the nearest airport though Glasgow and Edinburgh both offer frequent UK and international connections.

By Rail:
Fort William train station offers daily connections to and from Glasgow.

For more information on the event you can visit British Cycling’s website here.