Well, that was all rather exciting. We’ve finally returned from the long drive back home, readjusted our minds and here we have the final Downhill results. We were Twittering them live but if you missed that then here’s what went down at the most exciting sporting event this year…
In the Women’s race it looked like the French trio of Floriane Pugin, Myriam Nicole and Sabrina Jonnier were going to have the podium all to themselves but Tracy Moseley blew them out of the water, putting even more time into her rivals at each split, finishing 7.5s up on them.
With only Rachel Atherton left to head own the hill, the crowd knew it’d be a home win and the atmosphere was immense. Rachel had sat out the first round at Pietermaritzburg to give her shoulder injury as much chance to heal as possible. At the first split Rachel was faster but as the track headed out over the new road gap and pedally motorway section the advantage was lost and, visibly disappointed, she finished 1.72s behind.
Still, a British 1-2 was just what the crowd wanted, Floriane Pugin taking third. It was a good weekend for the British females anyway, with Junior rider Manon Carpenter putting in a stunning result to get 8th despite a mid-run issue in the woods. Ffion Griffiths took 9th and Emily Horridge took 19th.
With the home crowd’s expectations high, the Men’s race got underway. The hot seat was taken by Mick Hannah who stayed until dislodged by fellow Aussie Josh Button. He didn’t get the seat for long as Fabien Pedemanaud took almost a second off his time before the Antipodeans fought back, Kiwi Brook MacDonald putting in an epic performance to shave nigh on 7s off the time.
Brook had plenty of time to enjoy the view from the hot seat and, at one point, the next three places on the podium were filled with his countrymen as fellow New Zealanders Cam Cole, Sam Blenkinsop and Justin Leov put in blistering runs.
With just three riders left to go, Greg Minaar dropped in, the excitement building as his split times flashed up green, finally dislodging Brook. The crowds attention had moved on to the screen, where the noticeably skinner form of Danny Hart was riding like an absolute hero, all leery drifts and slides as he went all out. The crowd went insane as his first split time was up and erupted as his second flashed on the screen, still faster than the South African. Home crowd expectation went into overdrive but it wasn’t to be, losing time on the motorway section and crossing the line 1.3s behind to a solid second place.
With crowd favourite Gee Atherton and round 1 winner and fastest qualifier Aaron Gwin left, the tension was incredible. Gee looked like he could make it a second year of success at the Fort with fast splits up the top, but he crossed the line down on time and much to the dismay of the crowd, Gee himself looking deflated and inspecting his rear wheel, obviously having suffered mechanical maladies.
Aaron Gwin was then off – at the first split he was up by a stunning 5s but an off in the woods lost him time. It still looked like the American could do it and hit the next split still 3s up but crossed the line 3 seconds down.
The established order of things had been well and truly upset; two of the young guns of the downhill world were sat on the podium ahead of the favourites, With Greg Minaar first, an amazing second place from Danny Hart and a solid third from Brook MacDonald.
With Gee in fourth, the British riders in the top 40 were Steve Peat in 11th, Marc Beaumont in 12th, Josh Byrceland took 14th, Ruaridh Cunningham in 17th, local lad Ben Cathro took 19th, Joe Smith was 27th, Mark Scott took 38th and Tom Braithwaite took 40th.
It was an amazing event, the tight racing, smooth organisation and brilliant crowd atmosphere it was easy to see why Fort William is repeatedly voted the best event on the cycling calendar. Even if you’re not a downhill follower, it’s well worth coming just as a celebration of mountain biking and to experience both the race and what this part of Scotland has to offer…