Once again, Fort William again played host to some of the most exciting racing the World Cup has ever seen.
It all began with the juniors, with all eyes on the young Taylor Vernon – competing in his first ever World Cup – who had qualified fastest yesterday aboard his new GT Fury . Sadly, Vernon puncture up above split number two meaning his day was over. In the end, the young Swiss rider Noel Niederberger, riding for the Gstaad-Scott team, who took the win, with British rider Michael Jones in second,and the Australian Dean Lucas rounding out the top three.
Fastest qualifier Rachael Atherton stamped her authority over the women’s category by destroying the field by a staggering 10 seconds. The GT Factory Racing rider bolstered an already impressive qualifying performance to take the win in front of the home crowd ahead of fellow Brit Manon Carpenter from Madison Saracen, with Lapierre’s Emmeline Ragot in third.
The men’s event proved to be nail-biting stuff from the first run. Local hero Greg Williamson of Trek World Racing put in a solid performance to take the hot seat early on and finally end up in an impressive 10th place when all riders had descended the mountain.
After a seemingly average qualifying performance from Aaron Gwin, all eyes were on him in the final. Sadly, it didn’t come together for the US national champ, who never seemed to find his stride. Gwin had to settle for 20th position, which will no doubt be playing on his mind with Val Di Sole just one week away.
With solid runs from Steve Smith and Brook MacDonald, the pressure was really on Gee Atherton and Danny Hart from the expectant British crowd, desperate to see either one of them take the win.
As the camera followed Gee’s powerful pedal strokes down the motorway section, it was clear he was on a rapid run. Gee took the hot seat with just Danny left to ride to rapturous applause from the thousands of fans crowding the finish area. By the time Danny had launched into the finish arena, Gee knew he’d taken another victory here in the Fort. Danny was the first to admit that he had tried to push a little too hard, which on this occasion cost him a podium position.
Gee was over the moon to finally bag himself another World Cup win and was certainly keen to attribute some of that down to his updated GT Fury.
With Gee in the top spot, Brook in 2nd and Steve Smith in 3rd, 4th spot went to Sam Blenkinsop with Mick Hannah in 5th. Sam Hill’s solid run aboard his new Chain Reaction Cycles/Nukeproof left him in 6th while Danny could only manage 7th on the day. The current World Champ, Greg Minnaar in 8th was closely followed by his Santa Cruz Syndicate Josh Bryceland in 9th with Greg Williamson rounding out the top 10.