Elite Men’s Results Are In For The 2019 Fort William World Cup
It’s the third and final day of racing here at Fort William, which can only mean one thing – Finals Time!
After two tough days of surviving the notoriously rough Fort William race track, there were over 60 riders who had qualified for the Elite Men’s final. With many competitors strapping up various limbs and joints after hefty crashes sustained during Friday’s timed training and Saturday’s qualifying sessions, it was now time to really put their bodies, bikes, fitness, skills and nerves, to the test.
Following the Elite Women’s finals race, the skies cleared somewhat, with the mizzle fading away sufficiently enough for a few glimmers of sunshine to peek through the clouds. But while visibility had improved significantly for the men, the track conditions would remain just as challenging – particularly through the slick middle woods section, which was rapidly deteriorating, with ruts growing between the rocks and roots.
The Race – As It Happened
Kiwi rider Matthew Walker (the other Matt Walker) of the Pivot Factory Racing Team laid down a clean run to put in a time of 4:40, which managed to see off the first 20 competitors, with only David Trummer going marginally quicker.
As we saw in practice and qualifying, flats continued to be a significant risk for racers, with Aussie rider Jackson Frew having a serious rear tyre and wheel blowout just out of the woods, which would see him forced out with a DNF.
Swiss rider Basil Weber had a similarly bad day, with a heavy crash that knocked him out mid-run in the same spot that had flipped Emilie Siegenthaler off her bike in the Elite Women’s race, not long before. Weber laid still on the muddy corner for a few tense seconds, before shaking his helmet and getting back on the bike to complete his run. Scary stuff.
UNNO team rider and local favourite, Greg Williamson pulled off a beautiful race run that just got faster and faster – he wasn’t quicker than Trummer early on in the course, but as he built a steady rhythm, pulling back enough time in the motorway section to go half a second faster to take pole position, the Fort William crowd roaring as he crossed the line.
Mondraker team rider and local lad Laurie Greenland put on a spectacular aerial display on the motorway section, but while he was up early on in the course, his showboating tail-whips may have cost him time, with him finishing a second down on Williamson.
Despite having a horrible crash during qualifying the day before, Loic Bruni (aka ‘Super Bruni’) came down the mountain next.
The Specialized Gravity team rider turned the dial up to 11 on for his race run though, with his typically floaty style and some aggressive aero tucking helping to garner enough speed to put him into first place – a whole two seconds ahead of Williamson, and with a strong time of 4:37.
Aussie racer Connor Fearon rode strong early on, slinging his Kona Operator down the Pinball section cleanly despite the windy conditions that were battering the upper section of the track. Unfortunately, he couldn’t string it together smoothly through the woods and finished a ways off the pace.
A focussed Aaron Gwin came absolutely rocketing out of the start gate, getting low behind his bars to try and dodge the lashing wind. It wasn’t long before we came unstuck on one of the very first corners though, getting spat out the front door violently as his front wheel dug in hard and got him all crossed up. The crowd emitted a collective gasp, as they watched on to see Gwin flip off the bike and hit the ground hard, before he tentatively got up, thankfully in one piece. Gwin, a regular threat at every World Cup round, would register a DNF for the weekend – a gutting result for the American.
Following a horrible crash the day before, Gee Atherton came out the starting blocks looking to capitalise on the momentum he’s been building over the past year of racing. The rain kicked up again just as Atherton pedalled madly out of the starting gate, and then a few dabs through the woods dropped Atherton’s race run down to 4:43 – six seconds off Bruni’s time.
Madison Saracen team rider, Matt Walker danced his Myst 29er down the Pinball section with incredible speed – at the first split he’d put a second into Bruni’s time, and everyone realised he was on one. A few dabs in the woods section cost him some momentum, but he kept up the pace to hold that one second gap through the second and third splits.
Walker may have forgotten he was in a World Cup race, as he sent his back wheel out sideways off the motorway jumps in a gracious display of speed and style. Despite the unnecessary (but absolutely fabulous) whips, he still managed to cross the line half a second ahead of Bruni, the crowd absolutely roaring in celebration at Walker’s impressive run. All the more impressive given the broken ribs he was suffering through after a heavy crash three weeks ago. Proper stuff.
Pivot Factory Racing rider, Bernard Kerr, has been on a steady rise back to the front end of the field, and he put together a very slick run with a particularly fast display through the pinball section. Despite being the quickest up top, Kerr couldn’t quite keep the speed flowing, but he did manage to unseat Greg Williamson for the third fastest time with a sub-4:40 race run.
He was followed by the big South African Greg Minnaar – a rider who knows victory at Fort William very well. Minnaar pieced together a characteristically tight and neat run that had him nipping on the heels of the fastest times of the day. He lost some time through the woods, and looked like he might not be able to pull it back, but the big wheels on his Santa Cruz V-10 got faster and faster, taking him over the line just .1 seconds ahead of Walker.
Then Kerr’s teammate, Eddy Masters came barrelling down the mountain with an absolutely scorching run, with the screen showing green at the first three splits. Masters wasn’t able to quite hold the speed down the motorway section though, sadly losing valuable time that put him back in fourth.
It was apparent immediately that the young Canadian Finn Iles was also on an absolute flyer, with his first split showing he was a full second up on his teammate Bruni’s run. Then it was two seconds, then three seconds, then it was back to two seconds. With the Fort Bill crowd cheering him on, Illes pedalled hard down the motorway section, before crossing the finish line a full second ahead of Minnaar.
Not long after it was Danny Hart’s turn on the Fort Bill race track, and he was looking very fast early on with his splits coming very close to Finn Iles’ race time. Hart dropped down the motorway section with the crowd going absolutely wild, but he couldn’t quite close the gap, coming in just three tenths of a second of pole position, putting him in second.
Local lad, and fourth place finisher from last year, Reece Wilson, suffered some bad luck reminiscent of Rachel Atherton’s race run from last year, busting his chain shortly out of the start gate. An unfortunate front wheel jam in the woods then spat him off the bike, sending him straight into a tree. He jumped straight back on the bike, and still managed to finish despite being chain-less and somewhat banged up from his crash.
Aussie speedster, Troy Brosnan, has been agonisingly close to World Cup victory many times. Yet again he was looking fast and consistent, hitting green on the first two splits. Brosnan extended his lead, going over two seconds up at the third split, and ensured he kept on the gas down the motorway section to push a full three seconds ahead of Illes with an incredible time of 4:32.
With just two more riders to come down the mountain, would his time be enough to hold them off though?
The Frenchman Amaury Pierron, who took the win at last year’s race, looked like he was going to unseat Brosnan almost immediately though, with the Commencal-Vallnord rider putting two seconds into Brosnan by the third split. An absolutely scorching run saw Pierron somehow put over three and a half seconds into Brosnan. Unbelievable!
And then all eyes were then on the last man down the mountain, Loris Vergier, of the Santa Cruz Syndicate team. But while Vergier had the fastest time in qualifying, it soon became apparent that he wouldn’t be able to match Pierron’s incredible pace. Vergier still put in a smooth run, crossing the line in third position with a (still impressive) time of 4:32.
And here is your final top-five.
Note that Pierron put in over seven seconds into fifth place Danny Hart, and was the only rider to go sub-4:30, which is an extraordinary effort!
Elite Men’s Results
- Amaury Pierron – 4:28.578
- Troy Brosnan – 4:32.160
- Loris Vergier – 4:32.209
- Finn Iles – 4:35.781
- Danny Hart – 4:36.096
Missed out on some of the action? Then make sure you check out more coverage from the 2019 Fort William Cup event coverage right here!