Once again, Fort William, Scotland provided some of the most exciting World Cup four-cross racing of the season, with Anneke Beerten (Milka-Trek) finally winning at the venue after many years of disappointment.
The redesigned course proved to be a winner, with lots of passing and lead changes through the races. While there were still a few muddy, low-lying sections, most of the course had dried up enough to make many of the corners dusty and slippery, causing more than a few riders to slide out. The rock garden at the halfway point also proved to be a key factor, as numerous riders lost speed or crashed after choosing the wrong line.
The women's competition lost one rider before the competition had even started, with British rider Katy Curd breaking her arm in downhill training earlier in the day. The first round of competition saw one favourite not make it through, when round one second place finisher Fionn Griffiths (Team GR) flatted in her heat. Despite the flat, she managed to hold onto second place until the final straight. Melissa Buhl (KHS-Azonic), the fastest qualifier, also flatted in her heat, but it was close enough to the finish that she still managed to win and move on.
In the semi-final round, Buhl's luck ran out when she slid as she was entering the rock garden, forcing her to put her foot down, losing speed. The American managed to win the small-final for fifth place. The rest of the top qualifiers all moved on to the final, with the new British sensation Joey Gough joining Beerten, along with Lucia Oetjen of Switzerland and Celine Gros (Morzine-Avoriaz/Haute-Savoie).
The amazingly fast Gough took the holeshot from Beerten, but the highly experienced Dutch rider bided her time, cutting inside of Gough on the corner just before the rock garden to take the lead and then hold it to the line. Oetjen took third, ahead of Gros.
"It's unbelievable, I've been coming here so many years and I've never won," said Beerten. "They made some changes to the track, and I really like the new track. To finally win in Fort William ... I was really working hard to get this one, and now I've finally got it." Beerten now has a commanding lead, with 200 points to the 90 of both Oetjen and Gros.
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.