BDS FORT WILLIAM: PERSISTENT RAIN YET NO DAMP SPIRITS
As there were not too many races early this season, I decided to go for a little road trip from the Alps to Scotland and to race the Fort William BDS, as did quite a few other French and riders from further afield.
It started with a long first stint of driving across the French flat lands – fuelled by a lot of coffee – but I eventually made it to Wales for a few days. I had a great time there, riding all kind of bikes and enjoying an early taste of summer. Little did I know what was in store for me at the Fort…
After a few days, I loaded my van again and made my way up north. I stopped in Ae Forest for a ride on the trail bike to make the journey more enjoyable. It felt so good to be out there in the sun. The last part of the drive to Fort William is always really exciting, so I went full tourist mode and stopped a few times by Loch Lomond and around Glencoe, enjoying crazy landscapes and watching countless red deer. Travel seems so much more entertaining when you just take time to enjoy what is around.
I made it to Fort Bill for a few runs on Friday, taking advantage of the last minutes of good weather (of course I didn’t know this at the time, but the weather forecast would turn out to be quite accurate). The track is quite similar from one year to the next: super brutal, but it always feels good to ride it. Many top riders were there (Even Troy Brosnan had made it there all the way from Australia!) and it really felt like a mini World Cup in the pits with some big team trucks from the likes of Lapierre, GT, Scott, Trek and Madison.
The weather started to turn pretty bad in the afternoon and we got totally soaked during the track walk. It was just a first glimpse of what was going to happen over the weekend. We saw Rachel Atherton on the track giving some tips to a good bunch of girls. It was great to see them taking the time to study every section of the track, even in the terrible weather, and to see Rachel helping develop the sport.
Saturday was a big mix of ice cold temperatures, ferocious wind and torrential rain. Quite a shock after the sun and warm we had the days before. Rumour was that the gondola wouldn’t open, so everyone was stuck in the café, hoping for good news… which never arrived! Everyone was sitting there, a bit depressed by the situation but, well, you can’t change the weather. So that was it, the gondola was closed, seeding was cancelled and practice was possible only for the brave ones who were willing to push their bikes up and ride a shortened track (from the Silverline Wallride).
I decided to go out from our café-shelter and take advantage of my time in Scotland so I headed to Laggan trail centre (about 40mn north from Fort William). I saw some more amazing Scottish landscapes on the drive. It wasn’t expected that but it was even sunny there and I got to ride some dry, rocky and super fun trails… Still only 5ºc though but I finished with a great big smile on my face! Definitely better than sitting in the café getting bored and depressed at the Nevis Range.
Unfortunately, the howling wind and bad weather were still battering Fort William all night, and on Sunday morning the organisers had to give up the idea of riding on the full track. Everyone got a few warm layers and started to push their bikes up the hill. (The track started with a new muddy off camber just a few metres before the wallride.) Everyone had to do at least two runs to be allowed to race in the afternoon. The atmosphere was good and all the riders still seemed to have a decent time. It didn’t really feel like a race day, just like a good old day riding with mates and no pressure.
Bad news of the day was a massive crash for Myriam Nicole on the windy tabletops. She went over the bars and broke her collarbone. Such a shame as she was starting the season strong but we hope to see her back soon!
We had all kind of conditions for the race: strong headwind for some, heavy rain for others but at the end the fastest won and Rachel and Gee Atherton took victory! A strong field of riders and short track made for pretty tight times in all categories, fastest run of the day was 1mn 20sec for Gee.
UK riders resisted to the international racers’ invasion and it was a UK 1, 2, 3 in all categories: Sam Dale 2nd, Harry Heath 3rd in the men’s category, Tahnee Seagrave 2nd and Manon Carpenter 3rd for the women. For my part, end up with a 6th place. I found it really hard to get in the pace on such a short and physically demanding track where every little mistake costs a lot but I still had a good time there.
So that was it, the BDS in Fort Bill was already wrapped up even if it seemed like we hadn’t ridden much… Definitely not the conditions we were hoping for but everyone made the most of the situation and kept enjoying the weekend, proving once again the good spirit that reigns in our sport.
We all hope to see better weather for the World Cup in just over two weeks now!
Thanks to the organisers and marshals who probably had a tough time at the weekend and see you again soon Scotland!