Fort William - 10 Years of World Cup Racing

Mountain Biking Magazine



Fort William – 10 Years of World Cup Racing


  • Gee Atherton takes his first win at Fort William. There are amazing scenes in the finish arena.
  • It is sunny and dry. In fact the conditions are the driest in the race’s history.
  • There are some major track changes up top where it is down to solid bedrock in places…the track has evolved.
  • Hill crashes out big time ruining most of his season.
  • A young New Zealander called Cam Cole came of age and took second place, almost upsetting the form books and the locals.
  • Minnaar has to ‘nurse’ his bike down the hill.
  • A surprised Jonnier takes win number three in Scotland.
  • Controversy in 4X as a section of the rock garden is cut. Graves won even with a flat in one of the rounds. Jana Horakova makes in win number two in the women’s 4X.

“It’s great to see a classic track such as this one evolve rather than become stale. If anything the changes made one of the toughest tracks on the circuit even tougher.” Ed Haythornthwaite


Fort William has always been a bit of a big one for me, in a way it’s like the World Champs, the way I wait for it to come around for so long, anticipate it, picture it and when it arrives it’s always bigger and better than I have imagined. For years it has been a huge dream of mine to win there, in front of my friends and family, all the sponsors, everyone that has supported me over the years, it’s my chance to put on a good show…and for years that was a big problem for me. I would get to the race and even riding my bike normally felt like a bit of a struggle. Endless media opportunities that I didn’t want to turn down were gradually building up to the point where racing was almost the secondary thing on my mind. 2009 was when it came to a head after I qualified first then threw it away in the final. After that I realised it was not the home event that was putting the pressure on, but myself. It was me piling it all on, pressure that didn’t really exist, and I just needed to approach it and take it for what it was – one of the biggest mountainbike events of the year, and by far one of the best events of the year. The excitement was stepped up for everyone. Everyone had their own reason for feeling more pressure and it was just a case of allowing for that and getting stuck in. Once I realised this was the case I could enjoy it and make the most of it without getting stressed. It’s an awesome event and definitely brings out the best in the riders.


There’re just so many good things about the World Cups in Fort William; the crowds, the organisation, the town, the pubs, seeing mates you only see every year up there, but for me I think the one thing I really love about the place is the course and its setting.

Obviously the gondola puts this race far and above any other on our island, but the minute you get out at the top and take a look around at the surrounding mountains, I dunno, it just feels epic. I always take a deep breath and take it all in. Probably partly because when I was racing I knew what I was about to embark on, a real racetrack, a real test of man and machine, the course is fast and dangerous and utterly exhausting, but so exhilarating.

Right out of the old start it’s flat out, holding on for dear life, trying to stay off the brakes down that insanely quick top straight, then you get to the flatter middle section, narrow and awkward, hard to get any pedals in on the straights, they’re so rocky so you have to carry speed through the loose blown–out turns. Around the deer gate still on the open moor you start going really fast again, big open punishing turns, as rough as anything you’ll ever ride anywhere. Then the woods, somewhere it’d be difficult to win the race but easy to lose it. By this point you’re ruined, in bits, but as the course meanders down gently to the motorway section you’ve got to keep it going, stay focused and dig really, really deep. The last sprint in is huge, but I almost used to like it in a sadistic way, it’s the end and you can bury yourself, the feeling of coming over the last jump to see the crowd waiting is amazing. You’re almost there, it’s almost done.

There’s definitely more fun tracks in the world, but probably none more rewarding than the one on Aonach Mor, you gotta respect the bitch.


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