The Junior Mens race was something to behold, a lot of people seem to view Enduro in dull light but Martin Maes set Fort William on fire with a flamethrower this afternoon. The top three looked a little different before the Belgian crossed the line. UK rider Drew Carters up there with Alex Marin Trillo and Loris Vergier but then Maes brought the thunder. He was second at both splits behind Shaw at one and Vergier at two but his fitness shone through as he motored down the bottom section of track. Maes came in 1.298s ahead of Loris Vergier to take his first win in his first ever World Cup race, let that sink in a minute…
Maes aside we have got to say a huge well done to Drew Carters, taking the UK’s best Junior place in 4th and claiming the first UK podium here in Fort William. With Maes on top, Vergier second, Marin third and Carters in fourth there was just one place left and that went to Taylor Vernon. Great to see him back on the podium only his third World Cup after his back injury last year, the second UK podium from Tay.
With hope and adoration comes pressure, both Rachel Atherton and Manon Carpenter know how to deal with the massive amount of support that the crowds in Fort William have for them but along with Tahnée Seagrave pressure was something lacking in their tyres not their minds.
All three of the UK’s top hopes in Fort William flatted in their race runs, the track may have been smoothed before the first rider rolled from the practice gate but the harsh terrain was cruel to it’s home riders. Rachel was first to suffer and rolled down the track willed along by the huge crowd cheering through the Scottish sunshine. Tahnée Seagrave qualified ahead of Atherton but she too was scuppered by a rear flat, clearly gutted she rolled down the track and again she was brought in by a loud crowd. Winning qualifying by 10.736s Manon Carpenter was looking good for the win. Manon was on fire, she took the top section ahead of Ragot whose finishing time was actually +2.709s slower than Manon’s qualifying time.
Manon will be back, there is a win waiting for her on Aonach Mor one day soon but today it was Emmeline Ragot who popped the champagne. Winning by 8.710s Ragot looked fast and smooth. The only Lapierre rider aboard their new Team DH bike the 5’2″ rider put everything she had into this one. Myriam Nicole and the rest of the Women’s field were a step back in time from Ragot. The places that could well have been taken up with Union Jacks were filled with Australian, Swiss and American riders. Tracey Hannah came in third, after qualifying 6th she found just under half a second from here qualifying time to finish in 5.27.080s. Emelie Siegenthaler came in 4th, she will be happy with a top five after here DNF in Cairns and 9th in Pietermaritzburg. American Jill Kintner rounded out the top 5 and although she admitted the top girls puncturing sucked she was happy to take the last podium step.
Well, where to start. We have just witnessed something very special, no one has ever won their first World Cup downhill race at Fort William and if you stood Troy Brosnan next to the winners of seasons past then he doesn’t exactly fit the mould.
The racers who have made it count on Aonach Mor have generally been of a slightly larger stature. Kovarik, a man machine, Minnaar 6’3″ of lean South African and Steve Peat, Yorkshire steel who sent his single pivot 223 down this hill to victory in 2005 needs no introduction. It’s been a track for big riders with power, Sam Hill won in 06 and 07 and on flat pedals at the peak of his career so far. Troy Brosnan has clearly been working hard, he took maximum points on this dream weekend in Scotland winning both qualifying and finals.
There was talk of a track smoothed out at the start of the week and although it seems to not be as rough as it has been in previous years it still wounded a few. Blenkinsop, who was on a flier until he flatted and fellow Kiwi Brook MacDonald crashed out in the woods, this track is still a tough one on bikes and riders.
Steve Smith is back up to race pace and he posted a 6th place run, +4.133s off the winning pace but still a top ten finish and after nigh on eight months away from a race environment it’s damn good. Gee Atherton seemed happy with his day but 5th wasn’t where he or the crowd wanted him to be. Having won here last year and previously in 2010 he knows how fast he can go on this track. When Aaron Gwin crossed the line to take the hotseat ahead of Atherton the crowd still roared but nowhere near as much as they did when Gee came in. Gwin was in the right ball park today but losing to his team mate softens the blow. Gwin still wants to win again here and no doubt he is capable of but 2014 in Fort William wasn’t going to be added to the list. Danny Hart was another rider who looked absolutely pinned on the big screen, qualifying second he had the pace but couldn’t match that of the Aussie duo on the next two steps.
Sam Hill hasn’t won here since 2007 and today nearly everyone in finish arena thought he was about to do it again. Hill and Hart traded places from qualifying and Sam proved that his pace on flat pedals is still there. He looked gutted to lose out but still some great points for him.
Minnaar was composed and smooth, his 100th World Cup race might not have had the result he wanted but coming down your 100th race after some pretty serious knee surgery must be a pretty good feeling.
That title is one that Gwin is holding onto for now, today’s winner is snapping behind him and aiming to close the 88 point gap that currently separates them. Gee Atherton is 39 points back from Troy in 3rd and Sam Hill is exactly the same number back from Gee. The young American Neko Mullaly is in 5th with a 77 point gap from Hill.
Next weekend we hit Leogang and a track not favoured by many, Greg has won Worlds here and will be going in confident but could Troy make two on the trot? Only time will tell and this time next week it history could be made once again.
If you have missed any content we have done from Fort William then check it out here.