Elemental Forms of Racing Life – Fort William World Cup

From Dirt Issue 113 – July 2011

Words by Seb Kemp. Photos by Various.

For the racers, there was more than lengthy travel in the lead up to just one run to test themselves against each other, the course and time. Five days distilled down to five minutes on Aonach Mòr.

The race is only one story. As you stand at the bottom of the hill and look up, a glinting silver snake ripples all the way down the hill through the open mountainside. From this distance the serpent looks sleepy but it hides the menace within its taped sides. Slowly the mountainside and mountain bottom fills up with fervent spectators who have come to see the assembled–race heads get chewed up and shit out of the snake’s arse. The swarming mass of ‘oglers and buglers’ pack tightly from tip to tail and shoulder to shoulder. They let loose cries and shouts, hollers and bells, claps, cheers, horns and yells. No menace, just banter, they jeer on any and all riders who put themselves down the lines.

Bumping and jostling for position. Everything is shared in the mass of the pressing crowd at the finish line circle. The smell of smoke is like a burning dog turd wafting through the crowd. The crowd drips off the hillside as the event nears its zenith. Everyone keen to see the outcome of each rider’s one–man duel with the serpent and time. The spots around the line and in front of the jumbo–tron TV screen fill up and up like a Tetris challenge. If there is a gap then the collective consciousness of the crowd packs more mass into the mess. Bodies push up against each other leaving nothing to the imagination. Too many guys sweating and crying out for the performance of another male. It could be misconstrued as being rather same–sexual if it wasn’t for the presence of the girls of the energy drink to balance the hormones out. All this for the main event.

Far more goes into these pooled moments than can be seen on the screen of a glowing electric box. Sure there was practice, qualifying, more practice and endless preparations before a rider could get enveloped by the howling pack, but the individual atoms of the assembly has its own shape to the proceedings. The race is only a race for those in it. For the rest of us it is an event. A meeting place for people to convene and become a bulk. Something with more mass and value than the sum of its constituent parts. As the citizen cells gather and the action builds the collective effervescence compels them to become more excited. The crowd bumps, jostles, and shouts till a deafening din fills the remaining space in the air around the finish.>>

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