Inside Reece Wilson’s comeback and more from Fort William

Fort William was the perfect place to kickoff the season

World Cup downhill racing returned this past weekend like a fresh breath of air. Fort William was an apt place to kickoff the season, a long, deliberate, wrenching track that let us watch the riders tackle an array of obstacles. There was no easing into the season: Racing is fully on.

Fort William was also a homecoming. Reece Wilson has been working his way back from injury for two years. He’s now at full strength, and he got to show off his rejuvenated physical and spiritual wellbeing in his native country. His return to racing, and 16th place finish on Sunday, highlighted a weekend in which all four Trek Factory Racing DH riders made it through to finals.

“I honestly haven’t got words for it,” Wilson said after his run. “My feelings before that run were incredible. I was just champing at the bit to get going.”

Reece Wilson made his World Cup comeback with a custom kit and bike inspired by a poison dart frog.

Sacha Earnest took second on the junior women's podium, just ahead of The Union's Ellie Hulsebosch.

Wilson progressed throughout the weekend, taking 21st in qualifying and 24th in the semi-finals. He had the whole crowd behind him. Not just the “family, friends and old school teachers” he said came out to see him, but droves a fans who had been following the Flying Scotsman’s journey back to health. 

“Honestly it’s been physically and mentally two of the hardest years of my life,” Wilson said. “I thought for a while my career was maybe over, and the first three months of this last injury were pretty dark. So honestly this is insane. This is actually insane. I didn’t know if I’d ever do it again.”

Bodhi Kuhn is a man on a mission.

Loris Vergier won't rest until he's back on the podium.

TFR’s young riders — 17-year-old Sacha Earnest and 19-year-old Bodhi Kuhn — also started the season strong. 

Earnest took second place on the junior women’s podium in her first World Cup race as an official member of TFR (she began receiving support from the team in the middle of the ’23 season). She edged out The Union’s Ellie Hulsebosch, a fellow New Zealand and Session rider, by just 15 one-thousandths of a second. Both riders will be duking it out for podiums and wins all season long.

Kuhn took on his first ever elite-level World Cup race and immediately proved he belonged, finishing top 25 in both finals and semis — 23rd and 20th, respectively. He wrote on Instagram after the race that he “couldn’t be in a better spot for building on the rest of the year.” Kuhn’s progression will be one of the team’s best storylines this season.

Reece stylin' in Scotland.

Reece's rig.

Loris Vergier may be feeling some disappointment after his weekend, but only because of the high standard that last year’s World Cup No. 3 overall has set for himself. He took eighth in Fort William on Sunday, and might have finished even higher if not for a close call (and impressive save) when his back end bucked up in an early rock garden and nearly threw him. He posted the 14th fastest first split, then proceeded to claw his way back into the top 10 with an excellent run. 

Vergier, like the rest of the TFR crew, has plenty of reason to feel good about his chances at Round 2 of the DH World Cup in Poland in two weeks.

Fort William is one of the most iconic venues in the game.

Sacha and Company will be back in action in two weeks when they head to Poland.

The Union and Unior-Sinter squads also had impressive weekends. Outside of Hulsebosch’s podium, The Union watched Chris Hauser and Frida Rønning qualify for finals. Unior-Sinter only had Oli Clark healthy enough to race, but the 17-year-old took eighth in his first ever junior World Cup event.

Fort William was an excellent showcase of everything we love about downhill racing: brutal tracks, comebacks, fast racing … we could go on. And the best part is that there’s still six more rounds to go.