Fort William - 10 Years of World Cup Racing

Mountain Biking Magazine



Fort William – 10 Years of World Cup Racing



  • Sam Hill takes his first victory at Fort William by just over half a second from Cedric Gracia.
  • Tracy Moseley takes her third victory at the Fort winning by over seven seconds.
  • In fact Moseley tops off a podium that also includes fellow Brits Rachel Atherton and Helen Gaskell.
  • It is wet and gusty.

“there is no place to hide on Aonach Mor. It is unforgiving territory.” Mike Rose

SAM HILL      WINNER IN 2006 AND 2007

Fort William is one of the best races every year and I always look forward to going there. I have a lot of good memories, as it’s where I got my first ever World Cup podium back in 2003. It has also had some pretty wild after–parties and I’ve woken up the next day feeling pretty average there before. Probably my best memory was in 2007 when I won the World Championships. It was amazing to get back–to–back wins and I had a lot of my family there so it meant a lot. We all went out to dinner afterwards and I unfortunately fell asleep at the table then woke up, spewed a few times and went to McDonalds for a couple of cheese burgers to celebrate my win. It seems like every year there is something that stands out that I always remember and that’s what makes it such a special place to race.


Most World Cup venues come and go over time. There are few that really warrant more than two or three visits and only one that stands head and shoulders above the rest. As you know Fort William will be hosting its tenth year of Elite UCI World Cup/Champs level racing this year. Deservedly it has won best World Cup event six out of the eight attempts. This is no small fluke. The organisational team leave no stone unturned: Expo, entertainment, camping, parties, busses, grandstands, big–screen and food are all as important as the racing to them. As a result it pulls fans from all corners of the world who come for the festivities and the inevitable battles. A gathering of the Clans one could say.

Coming back to Fort William for the tenth year now is like having your annual family reunion. Yes you look forward to it, to the familiarity, camaraderie and spirit, but secretly you also dread it, dread what could be in store. Riders look forward to Fort William each year but they also know what is expected of them and their machines out there on the savage unforgiving slopes of Aonach Mor, show one sign of weakness and it will claim its toll on equipment, body or both, it shows no mercy or offers no favour, we have seen this each and every year.

It is truly the perfect testing ground for both athlete and engineering. When the current greats like Peat, Hill, Minnaar and Atherton have all won here you must agree that it is a level playing field that only the best man on the day can win on? It is one of the few tracks where rain hardly affects any given result, in fact the riders welcome the rain here, it is the wind that is your foe, jerseys will be pinned back and tucked in tight as maximum speeds are reached.

I have been lucky (or unlucky) enough to be on the receiving end of all that a trip to Fort William can offer. I have raced World Champs and a World Cup here and I have also inspected every last centimetre of track with cameras time and time again. On a proper DH bike those fun looking, easy to hit lines whizz past you and the undulating bedrock becomes wheel and suspension eating deathrock. No surprise that despite the added tyre pressure I have yet to finish a race run here without a flat and a destroyed wheel. Now the task is made even tougher by last year’s ‘excavation’ of the track. No longer a manmade gravel path above the peat. This is an evil bucking snake on the moors. I’ll stick to the photos from now on thank you very much.

It’s the photos that bring to mind one of my fondest memories of Ft William. During the 2007 World Champs Dirt Magazine hosted ‘SNAP’ a photo exhibition at a fancy venue right in the centre of town. There were small flags advertising this exhibition throughout town and I fancied myself a small souvenir of the occasion and a little memento to take home (as I always do from the World Champs), made sweeter as some of my work was displayed in the exhibition. Anyway with too much work to do I paid some members of the South African DH team with a couple of copies of Clay Porter’s DVD to go and ‘appropriate’ two of the small 2 foot tall flags. Well imagine my surprise when after midnight Rikka Olivier and a junior come back to the hotel with the two giant sized 10 foot tall banners that had been strung up at the entrance of the gallery, a bigger than life size Malcolm Fearon shot of Shaun Palmer with the Dirt logo emblazoned across the bottom. My biggest prize yet from Ft William. More valuable than a can of Deet and a midge net combined, you got to love the motivation for cheap South African labour. Thank you Ft Bill (and Dirt).


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