DOWNHILL QUALIFYING IS POSTPONED DUE TO BAD WEATHER
FORT WILLIAM WORLD CUP DAY 3
Words: Mike Rose
Photos: Ben Winder (Rankin shot by Rose)
So the news is that qualifying for this year’s downhill race in Fort William has been postponed… not cancelled, not forgotten about. You may ask why?
I think that secretly there were quite a few World Cup racers here today in Fort William that were quite happy that downhill qualifying had been called off. The first 8am inspection had been inconclusive; other than the tape at the top of the track was all over the place and would need replacing. As many of the riders gathered in the café at the bottom of the gondola waiting for the 11am final decision, it seemed that enthusiasm for riding down Aonach Mor was waning. No one seemingly really wanted to face the 2.82km track in such horrendous conditions, bad weather bringing in severe rain and high wind speeds (too much for the gondola to run safely). In fact some riders were not even at the venue!
This kind of sets a precedent. I am pretty sure that we have never lost a day to the weather here in Fort William. That is 15 years of sunshine and showers, but we’ve never a missed day. In fact we are wracking our brains to try and think of a World Cup downhill race where this has happened before (Alex Rankin of Sprung/Earthed fame remembers a 4X or Dual race in Vars where the track kind of slid down the hill in heavy rain, meaning that the race had to be abandoned… did this happen in Les Gets once too?).
This is of course totally gutting for the organisers who have worked so hard to bring us the event (year after year), and gutting too for the spectators who seemingly unknowingly were still filing in, pouring off the buses. There was still 4X racing, but the main course was off the menu. It was all a bit of a non–event.
What this means is that Sunday (race day) has had to be completely rescheduled. Downhill training will start at 6.45am (!!!), with Junior men kicking off the qualifying runs at 8.50am. And of course we hope that the weather will have abated and calmed down a bit. Sitting in a caff in Fort William high street things seemed to be OK, but you can bet that at the top of the course the weather would be still whipping up a storm.
Today was a day for eating cake, drinking tea and wishing for good weather.