Elite Women’s Results Are In For The 2019 Fort William World Cup!
After a (relatively) dry day during Saturday’s qualifying session, the rain showers returned to the Ben Nevis range for Sunday race day. But while the rock-armoured upper and lower sections of the 3km race track would remain relatively predictable for experienced racers, the much gloopier middle woods section would prove to be even more of a puzzle for riders looking for the cleanest and fastest line down the mountain.
Following two days of being battered by the brutally tough Fort William race course, 17 competitors would line up at the start line for the Elite Women’s race. Many had experienced punctures and heavy over-the-bar crashes in Friday’s practice and Saturday’s qualifying sessions, including Becci Skelton who had a horrible crash that would see her missing out on qualifying altogether.
Here’s how it all unfolded.
Barely five minutes before Melanie Chappaz was due to leave the start gate at half past midday, the morning’s drizzle kicked up a gear, turning into driving rain showers. Along with the wind and clouds encircling the mountain, track conditions and rider visibility would prove to be particularly challenging.
Chappaz would put in a decent time of 5:54, but it wouldn’t be long before her competitors would surpass that, with Swiss rider Camille Blanche clocking a 5:38 race run. Much like the Junior competitors earlier on, Aussie rider Sian A’Hern looked to struggle with the sopping woods section, losing a lot of time that she wouldn’t be able to wrangle back.
UK rider Katy Curd was then looking strong out of the gate, but unfortunately washed out her front tyre not long after the Pinball section, putting her a very long way out of contention. Mariana Salazar of the Dorvel AM team was then up on the first two splits, but a couple of mistakes in the middle of her run put her three seconds behind Blanche’s time.
German rider Sandra Rubesam was riding smoothly and assertively through the rocks up top, while pedalling hard at every possible opportunity, but just lost too much time entering the woods. As the day wore on, this hellish section was becoming more and more unpredictable as the mud eroded, leaving behind wheel-sucking gaps between the rocks.
Veronika Widmann was next to come down the mountain, and quickly stamped her foot down with a solid time gap of nearly seven seconds, which put her into pole position with 5:31 on the clock. Pivot Factory Racing rider, Emilie Siegenthaler, was next on the track, but came a cropper on the steep rocky and very muddy descent down into the woods, losing her front wheel into a deep rut that spat her into a vicious scorpion manoeuvre, with the bike landing hard on top of her. The crash would put Siegenthaler well outside of contention.
German rider Nina Hoffmann looked super smooth on her Juliana She-10 downhill race bike, and progressively got faster and faster as she came down the mountain. Her advantage growing from half a second at the first split and growing to seven seconds by the end to produce a race run of 5:24. Not bad for a 23-year old who has never raced at Fort William before!
It was then Rachel Atherton to shoot out the start gate, and it wasn’t long before Atherton was ahead, with over four seconds up on Hoffmann at the first split. Atherton continued to find speed on the deteriorating Fort William race track, extending the gap to six seconds through the woods section, before pulling into an aggressive aero tuck on the lower motorway section to cross the finish line with over eight seconds over Hoffman.
Cabirou was the second last rider to come down the mountain, but while she’d qualified faster than Atherton, unfortunately she just couldn’t match Rachel’s speed on race day, finishing with a time of 5:28.
Number one qualifier, and Polygon UR rider, Tracey Hannah was the final rider to come down the mountain, and looked calm and collected through the pinball section, even though she was over two seconds down on Atherton at the first split. Remarkably, things turned around in the woods though, with Hannah then bringing back three seconds to go ahead of Atherton’s second split. The tension in the crowd was palpable.
Her silky smooth run saw her maintain the lead at the third split, but Hannah lost crucial time on the motorway that left her crossing the line barely a second and a half behind Atherton – the eventual winner on the day.
The crowd erupted for the Women’s Elite field, with an elated Atherton congratulating Hannah as she crossed the line.
What a race!
Elite Women’s Results
- Rachel Atherton – 5:15.56
- Tracey Hannah – 5:17.171
- Nina Hoffmann – 5:24.382
- Marine Cabirou – 5:28.934
- Kate Weatherly – 5:37.977
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!