Fort William Day -1: Track Walk and Stevie Smith Memorial Run
An emotional day
Scorchio! Thursday at the 2016 Fort William World Cup was a day of two halves; remembering and remembrance.
Photos: Seb Schiek
Lets start with course walk... remembering. To tell you the truth some (actually ‘a lot’) of the riders could most probably have not bothered with the track walk if it wasn’t for a few (quite notable) changes. This is the fourteenth time that we have visited Aonach Mor, and in the last few years the track has changed little.
But there are changes, and they will make a difference. Up top the track has been smoothed out somewhat, surface laid, and corners kind of cut... inside lines abound. There is also what was described to me as a “horribly fast corner" with no berm… flat and open. It has been bone dry with bright sunshine all day, so the surface is loose and dusty, meaning that tyre choice and grip is going to be interesting.
Much of the rest of the course remains the same until you get to the woods, where a new section greets riders. New sections are always welcome here in Fort William, and new sections in the woods even more so.
The woods is where it gets steeper and interesting. By this point racers are already pretty knackered, they need to be alert both physically and mentally. Some said that the ‘new woods’ was reminiscent of some sections of Val di Sole. It is slightly longer than the old wooded section, littered with freshly cut stumps and will need time to wear in. But once it is worn in roots of monster proportions could appear. We’ll just have to wait and see.
The new wooded section still spits riders out at the road crossing jump, and everything else after that is pretty much ‘par for the course’! Anyone that raced the recent BDS will have ridden the newly shaped berm before the hip jump (some taking the inside line), and the newly shaped jumps. And that is it. Boom.
Remembrance… any fan of the sport will know that race legend Stevie Smith recently and tragically passed away. Knowing what to do it circumstances like this is always difficult, but the World Cup, and Fort William especially, needed to commemorate one of the greatest racers the sport has ever seen. The idea was tossed around the internet, then a few key players got involved, the UCI and event organisers got on board and a memorial run was decided on. This was a show of respect not only for Stevie but also for the wishes of the racers. What happened was that at 3.45pm a mass run took place, with up to fifty riders training it down to the finish line where they were met by an respectful group of fellow riders, mechanics, team mangers, event staff and more. Applause broke out and everyone ended up at Peaty’s on-site bar. Steve Smith will never be forgotten, especially in this part of the mountain bike world.
Tomorrow riders will be on track as practice begins.