CALM BEFORE THE STORM
FORT WILLIAM WORLD CUP: DAY 2
Words: Mike Rose
Photos: Sebastian Schieck (steamy window and Coconut Mountain by Mike Rose)
To be totally honest, not much happened on day two of the 2015 Fort William Downhill World Cup. Officially it was a practice day, but in reality most racers know this track so well they could almost ride in blindfold. OK, so there are a few new bits in the woods, and the long motorway section has changed, but apart from that everything is pretty much ‘standard issue’. Racers of course still have to go through the motions of bike set-up, mental and physical preparation, getting their ‘race head’ on, so practice is important.
The main issue today was the weather. The start hut at 8.30am was not the nicest place to be, but a few hours later the wind had picked up and the temperature dropped a few degrees and I think that conditions were even worse. Rain continuously tried to dampen the spirits of racers for the morning session. Most just got on with it. Unfortunately there was a red flag and course hold for around half an hour. Hopefully the rider is OK, but for the rest it meant a steamy wait in the café at the top.
The upper reaches of the course are literally set in stone – they ain’t going nowhere – so that was all pretty much as expected. The new woods were muddy, the final exit out into the open left riders with a tricky line choice for the road gap, but most coped. The new (almost) wallride berm just after had turned into a rutted mess… but you know what, it was alright, kind of vertical moto ruts… it was slow going though. The new jumps on the motorway section worked well, and the spectators will love it.
Everyone appeared to be riding well within themselves, few taking risks or going flat out (although there were numerous punctures). The Fort William World Cup week can be a war of attrition, racers don’t want to peak too early or show their hand too soon. It was a pretty steady old day.
As riders drifted off to eat, drink and sleep, all the talk was of tomorrow, Saturday. Qualifying is meant to take place at 12.30, but there are severe weather warnings in place, meaning that the gondolas may be shut and that no one will be on the hill. In the 15 years that we have been coming to the event I am pretty sure that we have never missed a day on the hill due to bad weather. If the lifts are closed then it is looking likely that qualifying will take place on Sunday morning with the race itself on Sunday afternoon… just like in the good old days of World Cup racing.