One of the most iconic and unique tracks on the World Cup circuit is back after a 3-year hiatus
Fort William has been in regular rotation on the downhill World Cup circuit since 2002. It is a rider favorite, especially among the sport’s significant UK contingent, including TFR’s own Reece Wilson and Kade Edwards. And this year, it’s making a triumphant return.
Fort William was last raced as part of the World Cup in 2019. You know what happened next. The track was on the schedule for 2020 and 2021, but Covid-19 pandemic surges forced its cancellation both times. Now, the iconic course is coming back from a three-year absence, and there may not be more buzz for any single World Cup race this year.
The course has special significance for Wilson, a Scottish rider who grew up riding on the highland terrain. He’s a master of big roots and loose dirt. And of course, mud. Let’s take a quick peek at the forecast shall we?
Oh yeah, that’s the good stuff.
For riders, Fort William might feel like the start of the season in earnest. The first round of the World Cup took place at another majestic site in Lourdes, but that was nearly two months ago. Fort William will kick off a stretch of seven World Cup races plus World Championships over the course of the next three-and-a-half months. Whatever you thought before, the downhill racing season is now fully underway.
Get ready for a fun one.
Fort William is not the steepest nor the most technical track on the calendar. It is, however, the longest at nearly three kilometers and five minutes (!) per run. It’s almost never smooth at any point from top to bottom, opening on wind-vulnerable and rocky moorland, transitioning to root-y woods, and finishing up with an all-gas finishing stretch that includes several serious jumps.
Fort William may be the biggest physical endurance test on the circuit. How well riders can keep their bikes under control while battling fatigue may determine the winner. Precise lines are crucial, because a misplaced wheel could easily result in a run-killing puncture.
Weather will definitely be a factor, with precipitation forecasted from now through race day. A little moisture may be welcome to add some grip to the natural features. Too much, and the course will become a slop fest. Getting to the bottom without falling may be an accomplishment on its own.
We’ll have to wait and see how the course holds up. No matter what, the conditions will be perfect for exciting racing.
What happened in Round 1?
Lourdes gave a tantalizing preview of what could be an excellent season ahead for TFR. Wilson led the way by finishing seventh, but Edwards wasn’t far behind by taking 13th and spending a long time in the hot seat after one of the best runs of his career.
Loris Vergier finished 12th, but if not for a small mistake that caused his bike to slide out from under him ahead of the third split, he might have had a special result. Through the first two splits, the reigning European Champion was on pace to take his first World Cup win of the season. He’ll no doubt be among the race favorites this weekend.
Charlie Harrison had a disappointing day in Lourdes, crashing before the second split to finish his run 58th. Chuck hasn’t been able to shake bad luck his last few races, but he’s proven he can be a top 15 contender. He has spent a lot of time in Scotland the last several weeks, so he knows the peculiarities of the terrain well now, too.
The RockShox Trek Race Team will also be in Fort William. Vali Höll finished fourth in Lourdes after taking P1 in qualifying, highlighting just how competitive the women’s field has become. As always, Höll will be an absolute blast to watch. Also keep an eye out for her teammate and Scotsman, Jamie Edmondson. Like Wilson, he grew up riding his bike on trails like Fort William. The 21-year-old could be a dark horse candidate to earn a career result.
Finally, youngster Tegan Cruz will be racing his second World Cup event ever. He took 10th in the junior race in Lourdes. More importantly, he successfully navigated the logistical and emotional chaos of his first World Cup (which you could view up close right here!)
How to watch
Head to the event’s official website for a complete schedule of the proceedings.
The men’s and women’s elite finals will both be streamed live on Red Bull TV. Once again, it’s FREE to watch; no sign-ups necessary. Just click here.
The women will race first on Sunday, beginning at 12:25 p.m. in the UK and 7:25 a.m. ET. The men’s race will start shortly after, beginning at 1:45 p.m. in the UK and 8:45 a.m. ET.
Instagram is the best place to follow both teams for photos, video and updates from the race. Click here for the Trek Factory Racing Downhill team, and here for the RockShox Trek Race Team.
See you at Ft. Bill!