Qualifying results are in for the 2019 Fort William World Cup!
It’s Saturday the 1st of June, which is *technically* the meteorological start to the UK Summer. You wouldn’t know it if you were here at Fort William though. But hey, who are we to be pedantic – we’re in the Highlands of Scotland after all right?
Thankfully, it’s also qualifying day at the 2019 Fort William World Cup. And the excitement levels here are well and truly off the chart.
The weather conditions have eased up after the depressingly persistent rain and mizzle of Friday’s practice session, and the crowds have continued to swell throughout the day. With spectators lining the race tape all the way up the mountain, making as much noise with various cowbells, vuvuzelas, and random bike parts as humanly possible, that quintessential ‘Fort Bill Buzz’ returning to Ben Nevis for another year of spectacular race action.
The hardy, rock-armoured sections of the Fort William race track has mostly shrugged off Friday’s moisture, particularly on the highly exposed upper section, which has been getting a handy blow-dry treatment throughout the day. The middle woods section is another story however, with the course eroding and becoming more blown out between the granite rocks and slippery roots.
Many riders have been taking a more cautious approach through the deep, dark, muddy woods, preferring to make it down to the finish line in one piece, rather than risk not being ready for race day.
With Tahnee Seagrave having crashed during her very first practice run on Friday, the Transition/Muc-Off rider has had to withdraw from racing due to a separated ACL. With Seagrave out of the equation for Saturday’s qualifying, and indeed for the entire weekend, it was the Aussie and Polygon UR rider, Tracey Hannah, who stepped up to the plate with a blistering run of 5:18, which saw her shave off 20-seconds from her quickest run during Friday’s timed practice.
Not far behind Hannah was Scott Downhill Factory racer Marine Cabirou, with Rachel Atherton in third – 6 seconds behind Cabirou and 10 whole seconds behind Hannah. It’s not yet clear whether Atherton crashed during her qualifying run, whether she was taking a cautious approach before Sunday’s race day, or whether she was playing the tactical game, but one thing’s for sure – she’ll be looking for revenge tomorrow after that broken chain blew her chances during last year’s race.
Mere milliseconds behind Atherton was Germany’s Nina Hoffman, and the Kiwi rider Kate Weatherly rounding out the top-five.
- Tracey Hannah – 5:18.182
- Marine Cabirou – 5:22.619
- Rachel Atherton – 5:28.825
- Nina Hoffmann – 5:28.96
- Kate Weatherly – 5:35.307
The Elite Men’s qualifying served up plenty of drama, with no fewer than 130 riders saddling up for a wet, windy and wild run down Ben Nevis.
Flat tyres had been a regular occurrence during the morning’s practice sessions, and it continued to plague certain riders, including Australia’s Jack Moir, who were discovering some of Fort William’s sharper rocks on their way through the lower half of the race course. It sounded like the tricky woods section was the main culprit, wreaking havoc on rider’s rear tyres, and seeing many come into the main road gap with not nearly enough speed. There were many hard hucks-to-not-quite-the-landing.
In the end it was Loris Vergier of the Santa Cruz Syndicate who took pole position, with a very speedy time of 4:34.305 (the winning time in last year’s Elite Mens race was 4:34.45). Fellow Frenchman, Amaury Pierron was barely half a second behind, with Troy Brosnan of Canyon Factory Downhill Team in third. Trek’s Reece Wilson and Madison/Saracen’s Danny Hart put on a show for the home crowd, rounding out the top-five.
- Loris Vergier – 4:34.305
- Amaury Pierron – 4:34.933
- Troy Brosnan – 4:38.901
- Reece Wilson – 4:39.683
- Danny Hart – 4:39.916
After skipping out on Friday’s official timed training, Vali Holl came back strong in Saturday’s qualifying session to take pole position over her competitors. The SRAM sponsored rider put nearly 16 seconds into Mille Johnset from the Atherton Bikes race team, with Anna Newkirk not far behind with the third fastest time of the day. Lauryne Chappaz and Sabine Thies rounded out the top-five.
- Vali Holl – 5:36.238
- Mille Johnset – 5:52.221
- Anna Newkirk – 5:57.864
- Lauryne Chappaz – 7:06.801
- Sabine Thies – 7:27.407
The Commencal-Vallnord team has had a strong showing all weekend, and their Junior Men’s rider, Thibaut Daprela followed up on his slick practice run from yesterday with the fastest time during qualifying. Just two seconds behind was Luke Meier-Smith, with Luke Mumford (apparently not from the band), and Jamie Edmondson finishing barely another second back. Ethan Shandro (son of legendary freerider, Andrew Shandro) continued his form with fifth fastest time in the Junior Men’s category.
- Thibaut Daprela – 4:50.395
- Luke Meier-Smith – 4:52.816
- Luke Mumford – 4:53.454
- Jamie Edmondson – 4:53.774
- Ethan Shandro – 4:54.069
While today saw more favourable weather conditions, the forecast does not look good for Sunday’s finals. Rain is due to arrive in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and it appears that it’ll be settling in for most of the day. As to how that will change the track on race day, remains to be seen.
Who will be victorious? Stay tuned throughout the weekend for all our stories coming from the 2019 Fort William World Cup!