The second downhill and four-cross round of the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup takes place this weekend on a windswept mountainside above Fort William, Scotland.
Defending champion Gee Atherton (Commencal) will be gunning for a repeat win in front of the home crowd in the downhill, but he'll face stiff competition from arch rivals Greg Minnaar (RSA|Santa Cruz Syndicate) and Sam Hill (Aus|Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Catz), not to mention the gaggle of younger riders who are snapping at their heels, such as round one winner Aaron Gwin (USA|Trek World Racing). 2005 winner Steve Peat (GBr|Santa Cruz Syndicate) can never be counted out, despite a lacklustre 2010 season.
In the women's race, reigning world champion Tracy Moseley (GBr|Trek World Racing) will be looking to cement her lead in this year's World Cup, while her compatriots Rachel Atherton (Commencal) – if she chooses to race after sitting out the first round in South Africa – and Fionn Griffiths (Team GR) will also be gunning for a win on home soil. Their strongest challenge is likely to come from the French riders, including Emmeline Ragot (Team GR), Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and Floriane Pugin (Scott 11). Up-and-coming junior Manon Carpenter (GBr|Madison Saracen) is also one to watch.
When it comes to the four-cross, it would take a brave man to bet against the current two top-ranked riders – Jared Graves (Aus|Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race) and Michal Prokop (Cze) – retaining their grip on the podium, with the RSP 4 Cross Racing Team hot on their heels. In the women's race, UK riders Fionn Griffiths (Team GR) and Katy Curd (Rose Bikes) will be strong contenders, although it'll be hard to beat the likes of Anneke Beerten (Ned|Milka Trek MTB Racing Team) and Anita Molcik (Aut).
BikeRadar will be at the Fort Bill World Cup, getting the lowdown on all the tech in the pits and the racing action. Look out for a load of stories, pics and videos over the weekend – and see you in the Grog And Gruel!
The atmosphere in the finish arena is electric when crowd favourites like Greg Minnaar come into view
Friday 3 June
- 8.30am-2.30pm: Downhill (DH) training
- 2.45pm-4.15pm: DH timed training
- 4.15pm-5.45pm Four-cross (4X) training
- 6-7pm: 4X qualification
Saturday 4 June
- 8.30am: Site open to public
- 8.30am-11.30am: DH training
- 9am-4pm: British Trials Competition
- 10.30am-12.30pm: Youth XC Dirt Crit races
- 11.30am-1pm: DH training
- 1.15-1.30pm: Youth XC Dirt Crit prizegiving
- 2pm-4pm (estimated): World Cup DH qualifying
- 4.15pm-5.45pm: 4X training
- 4.30pm-4.45pm: Awards ceremony – British Trials Competition
- 6pm-7pm: World Cup 4X
Sunday 5 June
- 8.30am: Site open to public
- 9am-3pm: British Trials Competition
- 9.30am-12pm: DH training
- 1.15pm-1.50pm: Women’s World Cup DH finals
- 2pm-4.04pm: Men’s World Cup DH finals, followed by awards
(Event programme subject to change.)
World Cup Pass
Entry and gondola, Fri, Sat, Sun
Adult £44; Child (6-17) £22.50; Family (2 adults, 1-4 children) £110
Entry and gondola, Sat, Sun
Adult £36.50 advance, £40 on site; Child (6-17) £18 advance, £20 on site; Family (2 adults, 1-4 children) £91 advance, £100 on site
Single day pass – entry and gondola
Sat or Sun
Adult £19 advance, £21 on site; Child (6-17) £10.50 advance, £12 on site; Family (2 adults, 1-4 children) £48.50 advance, £53 on site
Single day pass – entry only
Sat or Sun
Adult £13 advance, £14 on site; Child (6-17) £7.50 advance, £8 on site; Family (2 adults, 1-4 children) £29 advance, £36 on site
For more information, visit www.fortwilliamworldcup.co.uk.
It's not just about the racing – there's loads to see and do in the pits/expo area too
How to get there
All the action takes place under the shadow of Ben Nevis, which is the biggest mountain in Britain, and therefore pretty hard to miss. The World Cup itself takes place on the slopes of Aonach Mor which is home to the Nevis Ski Range Area just outside the town of Fort William.
If you’re really keen (or a hopeless romantic) then there’s an overnight sleeper service between London and Fort William. The Fort is pretty well catered for by rail services so if you can get to any major Scottish city you should be pretty well sorted. If you’re bringing your bike make sure to book a spot for it on the train. If travelling by coach then stick it in a bike bag and make sure to check the company’s luggage policies.
It’s in Scotland so if you’re not already reading this from there, you’ll have to head in that direction. If you’re heading up the east side of the country (A1, M1) head to Edinburgh before gunning for Perth. Stay on the A9 as far as Dalwhinnie then take the A889 to Laggan, the A86 to Spean Bridge then the A82 to Fort William.
If you’re heading up the west side (M6, M74) then head for the M8 and straight through Glasgow. Follow the M898 to Dumbarton. Follow the A82 alongside Loch Lomond to Crianlarich before crossing Rannoch Moor, Glencoe and eventually Fort William. From Inverness just follow the A82 alongside Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal.
Travel by air
Inverness airport is your best bet at just over 100km away from The Fort – it sounds quite far but the drive is stunning! Because of the tiny nature of Inverness airport however, it may be more convenient to fly to Glasgow, Edinburgh or Prestwick.
The weekend of the World Cup, Fort William goes mental and congestion can be a real issue. The race site is only a 20-minute bike spin away from the town centre and there’s a tidy cycle path so it mightn’t be a bad idea to bring the bike. There are shuttle bus services too and from Aonach Mor which although regular, will be mobbed by the end of the day, so be prepared to either queue or get walking.
Where to stay
If you haven't already booked accommodation in Fort William for the weekend, you're probably too late, especially if you're planning to travel up as a group – but it's worth checking with Visit Scotland (0845 225 5121) just in case. There are plenty of options further afield, or you could always consider camping.
Fort William's greatest hits
Fort Bill has been hosting world-level mountain bike events for 10 years. To celebrate this milestone, we look back at the three greatest moments that the windswept hillside of Aonach Mor has seen over the past decade...
1 Golden day for the UK (11 September 2005)
This was the jewel in the crown of Fort Bill's momentous race weekends. The 2005 season finale marked the World Cup circus’s fifth visit to the Nevis Range. Tracy Moseley got the Sunday rolling with a victory in the elite women’s race, also claiming the overall title. Things were looking good for the Brit-pack. Resplendent aboard his polished Honda downhill bike, Greg Minnaar was sat in the hotseat as the elite men’s race was reaching its dramatic conclusion.
Steve Peat was the last man to break the start beam and the tension was palpable. It needn’t have been – he crossed the line two seconds quicker. The crowd went berserk and the memory of Peaty standing in the finishing area with his bike held high above his head is one of the most emotive in British biking history.
2 Sam Hill takes the World Championships crown (9 September 2007)
Australian one-man flat-pedal thundercloud, Sam Hill, loomed into the rainy Fort Bill pits already wearing the rainbow stripes from the previous year’s World Champs held in Rotorua, New Zealand. This was Hill in his pomp – he’d been on the podium at every World Cup round, including emphatic wins at the opening three rounds, breaking the backs of any opposition before they’d even had a chance to get going.
Aboard the now almost-equally iconic Iron Horse Sunday he provided a brief glimmer of optimism for the rest of the field by qualifying low down the order. Could this and the power-house nature of Fort Bill put pay to his hopes of making it double honours for the season? In a word – no. Hill’s run was an education in fast, fluid riding and as he crossed the stripe the weather seemed to turn on the remaining riders and 40,000-strong crowd.
Hill finished the day as he’d begun it, as world champ, with Fabien Barel (himself a double winner) in second. There was a glimmer of patriotic hope in third as Gee Atherton showed glimpses of the power and raw speed that would see him take the crown from Hill the next year in Val di Sole, Italy. If mid-Noughties downhill racing was summed up by Sam Hill then this performance at The Bill was a marquee moment.
3 Gee Atherton wins a World Cup on home soil (6 June 2010)
By 2010, Gee Atherton had really made his mark on the World Cup scene, with wins on many European courses, but a win on home soil at Fort Bill had always eluded him. Last year though, that came to an end… Cynics may have said he’d never had the level of support that Steve Peat or Tracy Moseley had at Aonach Mor but he soon put that right.
On a course where sub-five minutes was once considered quick, he annihilated the trail on a sun-soaked race run with a 4:35, just a second ahead of Kiwi surprise package Cam Cole. Nemesis Greg Minnaar was back in third and would ultimately lose out on the overall after a season-long titanic tussle with Atherton. Not for the fi rst time, the epic British crowd and unforgiving track had played their part in deciding World Cup glory.