Best of British - How does the home talent stack up at Fort William? - Dirt

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Best of British – How does the home talent stack up at Fort William?

How do the cream of the British crop line up coming into Fort William?

With the fervent crowd at their backs and a patchwork of rocks as familiar as their nan’s quilts under their wheels, it’s assumed there’s a massive home advantage for the Brit riders at Fort William.

But how true is this? Certainly in recent years the Brits have dominated the top 20 – this peaked in 2014 with 10 riders making the cut. But it’s not always been the case. In 2002 Pagey was the only Brit inside the top ten, and 2003 was even worse with Gee Atherton being the highest placed Brit in 12th. Even as recently as 2009 Britain ‘only’ managed to get six riders in the magic top twenty spots. To put this in perspective there were seven from Australia and New Zealand in the top 20 in 2013. Lourdes actually seems to be a happier place for Brits in recent years.

In terms of wins, we’ve always dominated the women’s field with eight in the 15 years since the race’s inception in 2002. In particular it was a stomping ground for Tracy Moseley who won five of those alone. It’s a different story for the men. Steve Peat’s sole win in 2005 and Gee’s triumphs in 2010 and 2013 are the only trophies we can brag. By way of contrast, Greg Minnaar has six of his own and Sam Hill picked up another two (including a World Championships).

This year, that myth of domination could be challenged once again. Bryceland retired, Mr Reliable (or maybe not so with recent injuries) Gee Atherton out after the BDS and resurgent French and American packs hoping to de-throne the local boys.

So, where does this leave us coming into 2017. Is the Brit domination as strong as we think? And how does this bode for the current crop of racers?


Gee Atherton

The most successful British rider at Fort William with two wins and nine podiums. He would have been coming into the race on a brand new 29 inch prototype bike but unfortunately a crash on the first jump at the BDS saw him dislocate his hip. He won’t be racing this weekend.

Danny Hart

Danny’s best results at the Bill came in 2011 and 2012 when he got two consecutive second places since then he’s been consistently in the top ten and hunted down a third last year. He comes into the race on a new bike that is now proven at elite level following his BDS win.

He stands now as the strongest British hope by some margin to pick up a win at Fort William and there’s nobody who would love that more than him. Or us!

Greg Williamson

With the departure of Josh Bryceland, Greg Williamson stands as the next most successful British racer that will be heading to the Bill. The National Champion has scored three top tens in his past four visits and he’s clearly got some pace after a third at the BDS behind Hart and Bruni. He’s also a Bill local and will have been smashing out the practice laps. Watch this space on Sunday afternoon.

Adam Brayton

Danny Hart aside, Adam Brayton is the only Brit racing that has a senior podium at Fort William World Cup after his buckaroo ride to fourth last year. The Kestrel will be hoping to prove it wasn’t just a fluke this time out.

Laurie Greenland

Laurie Greenland comes into Fort Bill as the unknown factor in the Brit assault. His best result is a second, as a junior, but coming away with eighth on his first senior appearance here shows he has the skills and resolve to master the fearsome track.

Matt Simmonds

It’s been twelve years since Matt Simmonds’ first visit to the Scottish Highlands and his ninth place in 2012 stands out as the top result. He’s picked up a further three top tens in his Fort William visits, a tally he will be looking to add to.

Brendan Fairclough

14th place last year was a second best result ever for Bernard (following an 11th in 2009). He’s never finished outside the top 30 here but he’s still so hungry to break into that top 10 or even higher.

Bernard Kerr

Fort William hasn’t been the happiest hunting ground for Kerr. He’s been racing here since 2008 but only has four race finishes to his name and one top twenty. As he proved in Val di Sole though, if he turns it on you can expect some fireworks.


British women have gridlocked the Fort William podium for the past couple of years grabbing seven out of a possible ten spots. In fact, that’s been the case for a good few years now, except in 2014 where Atherton, Carpenter and Seagrave all flatted and Ffion Griffiths was the highest placed Brit in sixth. It’s probably not too controversial to expect more success this weekend.

Rachel Atherton

Atherton is going for a hat trick of Fort William wins this year having been on the top step for the past two years. She also took a win in 2013. Mechanicals aside (although she’s been very good at avoiding them of late) it’s hard to see anyone stopping her adding to her tally.

Manon Carpenter

Manon has a raft of podiums at Fort William but the win has always avoided her. Last year she qualified fastest by five seconds and still managed to roll home third despite a crash so the pace is certainly there. If you want proof of her commitment look no further than the yard sale she suffered in 2015 after being the only woman to send it off the Tissot jump.

Tahnee Seagrave

With an injury last year and a puncture in 2014, there’s only been one race where we’ve really been able to see Tahnee’s true pace at Fort William – she finished second. Take her BDS results with a pinch of salt as she was still trialling a new bike but fastest through the speed trap and a second off the win shows she’s there or there abouts.

What we know is that we don’t know how the year is going to pan out. Lourdes simply proved that wet weather is a real leveller in terms of riding skill. What have we learned form the BDS recently at FW? Probably nothing.

What is not proven is how many riders will do on a world level this season and therein lies the whole nonsense of trying to analyse the last race at Fort William. Wind, fatigue, training schedules, ability to adjust to 29” wheels will all come into the equation for each and every rider. It’s going to be a belter


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