Matt Cole's Fort Bill Diary
By Matt Cole | Thursday, September 6, 2007 11.00pm
After a ten hour journey from BikeRadar central in Bath, we eventually arrived at Fort Bill (and there was me thinking that when we'd passed the 'Welcome to Scotland' sign it wouldn't be too far away).
The Highland town is the venue for this year's Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships and MBUK's Doddy [http://www.bikeradar.com/blogs/mbuk]made the journey more bearable with tales of previous trips to Scotland. The scenery helped too - we'll be making some stops to take a few snaps on the way home, when we'll have a little more time.
Once we arrived at Fort Bill we headed straight for the Nevis Range to soak up some atmosphere. After we'd plastered ourselves with anti-mosquito cream and strapped on hiking boots, we made our way to the 4X track where qualifying was taking place. It's a fast course which has been lengthened for the world champs and it's going to be a hell of a race. The crowds have started to pour into the championship area and are sure to be out in full voice.
There's a great place on the last couple of jumps on the course which looks ideal for big air, overtaking, and should provide us with some interesting offs (not that we'd wish that on any of the riders). Frenchman Saladini Romain was first in qualifying followed by Czech Michal Prokop and US rider Brian Lopes. In the women's category Czezh rider Jana Horakova qualified fastest ahead of Melissa Buhl and Jill Kintner, both from the US.
We arrived at the Nevis Range championship venue early this morning, and headed to the top of the downhill course with a view to scoping out course conditions and finding good spectating spots for Sunday's race. All the downhill riders were out on the course from 9am to midday doing practice runs.
After catching the gondola to the summit there was time for a very Scottish breakfast in the restaurant there. Apart from the baked beans, I'm pretty sure that everything was deep fried - very tasty all the same. The course was calling, so we kitted ourselves out with some wet weather gear (thanks to Helly Hansen's Virtue jacket for keeping my top half dry) and walked the course, from the start tent to the finishing Nissan jump at the bottom.
The start has been changed for this year - it's more spectator-friendly, but no easier for the riders. Riders throw themselves down a track which is completely exposed to the elements - you can see from the pictures how wide open it is.
From the exposed, rocky, burmy course at the top, the track descends into a wooded, mosquito-ridden section which has surprises galore including a few big drop-offs and a massive wall ride, (though I'm told it's faster to miss this element out.)
Meanwhile it was great to see Steve Peat riding the course after dislocating his foot only a couple of months ago. Here he is scoping out a top section of the course.
This is the Nissan archway at the bottom of the course.
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