Team Chain Reaction Cycles / Nukeproof rider Sam Hill took second place in the third round of the downhill World Cup in Fort William over the weekend, in what was one of the most exciting races we’ve seen in years.
Here’s the team edit from the weekend…
As ever, Team Manager Nigel Page was there for every nail biting moment – here’s his report…
What a race we had for the third round of the UCI MTB World Cup. Fort William is always the best of the year in terms of crowd and atmosphere but this year the race was so exciting and came down to the wire.
The whole team had a great weekend starting off with qualifying on Saturday on a super-fast dry track.
Joe Smith put in a great ride for 16th and the big news was young Mike Jones qualifying 10th in his first elite year. It was an amazing result and a good indication of what we can expect from this young talented rider for the future.
Sam Hill came into this race with one goal and that was to win and a third place qualifier put him right in the mix and on target for his goals.
Saturday night we saw a good amount of rain but come 2pm on Sunday the track was pretty dry again and prime for the elite men’s finals.
Joe Smith bust out of the gate with only 15 riders to go. The atmosphere in the finish arena was electric with some very fast times already posted from top riders who had problems in the qualifiers. Joe looked super-fast and riding amazing on the big screen as we willed him on down the track. Joe made a couple of little mistakes pushing as hard as he could but still looked to be having an amazing run and a 20th place was another great result from Joe. He wanted better and was a little disappointed, but still a great result for him and the team.
As we approached the last 10 riders, as I was dreading it started to rain in the finish area, and looked to be raining heavier at the top rocky part of the course. Young Mike couldn’t have gone off at a worse time. He fired out of the gate and was pushing hard on the top section of the track, but we could see the rocks were wet and much slicker. It showed as Mike was 2.5 seconds down on the first split and then the rain stopped. Mike picked up places as he went down the track and improved from 52nd at the first split to 22nd at split two and with a really strong finish on the final motorway section he gained another spot to finish 21st. What a great ride and result that is for Mike and the team. We can all sense an amazing result from Mike in the not too distant future.
With just three riders to go and three past World Cup series champions sat in first, second and third – Gwin, Atherton and Minnaar – Sam Hill set off out of the start hut looking super-fast and smooth on the top section with one slip on a right hand turn and a quick dab of the foot just to send my already peaking heart rate over the edge. Sam recovered and showed all the fans watching on the big screen why he is so popular with amazing skills picking inside lines and showing the green light on the first split. As we eagerly awaited to see what Sam could do on the long middle section where he excels the crowd erupted at split two as he hit the high speed right hander into the hip over two seconds up! At this point I was screaming at the big screen willing him down to the finish. Sam pushed as hard as he could getting all the big jumps perfect and only lost one second on his flat pedals to go into the lead and take the hot seat. The crowd went wild for their hero!
With just two riders to go it was one of the best finishes to a race we have ever witnessed.
Danny Hart was next up and was slightly faster than Sam on split one but then lost time to Sam in the middle section and came into split two just over one second down. Danny pushed hard on the motorway and gained a bit back but was only good enough for second.
With one rider to go Sam was sitting on the top step where he has been working so hard for since he was champion in 2009. His fellow Australian and ex-team mate Troy Brosnan set off and was only sixth at split one but Troy had an amazing middle section as Sam did and came into the final motorway just under one second ahead of Sam. He pedalled hard and it was good enough to beat Sam by 1.6 seconds to take his first ever World Cup victory.
Sam was obviously gutted but like a true sportsman went over to congratulate his friend and competitor.
Although we all wanted Sam to win so much, we are super-proud of him and second place at Fort William was good enough to bump him up to fourth in the overall standings from 10th and closer to his season goal of that No 1 plate.
A huge thanks to all the team riders, mechanics Jacy and Owen, Salva and Duncan for providing us with great video footage and images and a massive thanks to Mike Jones’ Mum and Dad for feeding us track side all week.
Thanks also to all our great sponsors for the support and the best products and congratulations to Lesley and Mike from Rare Management and all their team for once again organising the best race of the year.
We now head off to Leogang, Austria, for round four next weekend – so stay tuned. On the Hunt!