DH World Cup Round 2 – Fort William Race Preview

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When you’re trying to pick the winner of a DH race, there are two factors that help guide you towards your decision: form and history. Amaury Pierron, the winner of Round One in Lourdes a few weeks ago, was also the winner of the 2018 and 2019 World Cups at Fort William and in 2019 he set the fastest time I can ever recall anyone descending Aonach Mor, a simply stunning 4:28.5. So that’s that then, Pierron wins. If only racing was so simple…

All photos: Red Bull Content Pool

Oh how we’ve missed this!
Winner of Round 1 and the 2018 and 2019 Fort William World Cups Amaury Pierron is the hot favourite this weekend

Since that day in 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic has denied the Highlands another World Cup visit, and it’s been missed. There’s no other track like Fort William. It’s not steep or particularly difficult to ride, plenty of people have descended it on a trail bike without issue and aside from the road gap, which is only open on World Cup weekend, there are no big features to fear. It’s a bugger to race though. The challenge lies in the length – it’s the longest track on the World Cup circuit, and the terrain – granite bedrock which hasn’t been polished smooth like your kitchen worktop, quite the opposite in fact. As soon as you leave the boardwalk section roughly a minute into the track it’s relentless until you get to the woods. There are no smooth sections to give your arms a rest, your choice is simple: either hit the rocks or hop them. Either way, it’s exhausting. By the time you get to the Deer Gate your legs and arms are burning and you’re still only halfway. There’s more granite, the woods and the motorway still to come…

Granite, granite and more granite. Adam Brayton trying to find a line.

Rumour has it that they might take the old line from the Deer Gate which is physically more demanding and will potentially give the riders a different entry to the woods. 

5 x World Champion Loic Bruni has only podiumed once before in Fort William

So, who does history tell us has done well here then? It’s no surprise that Greg Minnaar has more wins than anyone else. With seven, he’s actually got more than everyone else lining up this weekend combined. As he proved in Val di Sole last year, Minnaar can win anywhere, but if he’s going to win a World Cup at 40 years of age, history tells us it’s likely to be here.

Greg Minnaar has more wins than all the other racers combined

Between them Pierron and Minnaar have won every race dating back to 2014. Troy Brosnan was victorious then but he’s at home, still recovering from a broken ankle sustained at Australian National Champs. Gee Atherton (2013 winner) is still recovering from throwing himself off the side of a cliff, which leaves Aaron Gwin (2012 winner) as the last of the current racers to be victorious.  

Finn Isles about to drop down ‘the wall’ and into the finish arena

What about form then? Well, Finn Isles has had a great start to the season winning seeding and eventually finishing fourth at the pre-season race in Brioude and second at the first World Cup. He won here as a Junior in 2016 and podiumed here in 2019. Also on that podium in 2019 were Loris Vergier and Danny Hart. Of the Brits competing this weekend Hart could be the man to watch. There was a British 1,2,3 at the National in Fort William a fortnight ago with Hart taking the win, Laurie Greenland second and Matt Walker third. Danny invests a lot into Fort William, spending 2 weeks there in the camper ahead of that race. He doesn’t ride every day but still… Unfortunately for him, winning the National that generally precedes the World Cup doesn’t seem to translate into World Cup victories.

Loris Vergier goes well here

It was a stacked field though and Vergier, Daprela and Minnaar were all within the Top 7. Loris looked lightning fast in Lourdes before a small crash, as did Thibaut who won the Junior Men’s race Fort William in 2019. What about Bruni? Well, as he said in our most recent episode of the pod, he sucks at Fort William. Just one podium in all his years racing here but he’s set himself a target to do well at the Bill this year and I think he might make that two this weekend. Then there’s Reece Wilson who’s podiumed at Fort William before and Luca Shaw and Benoit Coulanges who were both on the podium in Lourdes? The field is deep and we could go on all day but expect the winner to be someone who’s been on the podium at Fort William at least once before.

Winner of the National round in early May, Danny Hart is a definite contender this weekend

That might not be the case in the Women’s race though. Rachel Atherton has won 4 of the last 7 races down Aonach Mor but she won’t line up this weekend. Yet to feel strong enough after the birth of her daughter she won’t race until she knows she’s ready. Tahnee Seagrave was the only other previous winner who could line up in the start gate this weekend. She’s out though after a training crash left her with a concussion. So, that means we’ll have a new winner. Camille Balanche has only competed at Fort William once before finishing seventh in 2019. She’s improved a huge amount since then though and won the first round in Lourdes so she’s a definite contender this weekend. 

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A post shared by Tahnée Seagrave (@tahneeseagrave)

Women’s podium 2019

Nina Hoffmann was third in 2019 and won the National, finishing nearly seven seconds ahead of Vali Hoell. Hoffmann’s time of 5:18 was only three seconds off Atherton’s winning time in 2019 and whilst the woods might’ve been a little different, they don’t change that much and given Pierron’s time in 2019, we know the track was running fast. Hoell is a contender but goes better elsewhere. She only lost twice in her two Junior seasons, once was here where Anna Newkirk put 3.5 seconds into her. 

The iconic start hut, where it all begins

The favourite must be Myriam Nicole. Pompon has been racing in the Highlands since 2007 and despite never winning, has been second four times.  

In Junior Men Jordan Williams is possibly the biggest favourite of the weekend. At the National he laid down a 4:34.94 which would’ve been good enough for second in Elite and was nearly nine seconds quicker than his main rival and winner of Round One, Jackson Goldstone. 

Aside from Phoebe Gale, all the other competitors in the Junior Women’s race are coming to Fort William blind. There’s a lot to learn in a weekend, especially if you’re tucked away in B-Practice. Any of them getting close to her this weekend will do well. 

The weather? Well, it’s not looking great with heavy showers predicted across the weekend which might play to the Brits’ advantage.

Whatever the weather, the fans will be out in force

Five talking points:

  1. Fort William has never been won on a mullet and Minnaar is one of the remaining few riders on a full 29. Can he keep that record alive this weekend?
  2. Or, will Amaury Pierron get the three-peat? Much as he’s the favourite, racing doesn’t always go that way…
  3. Can Loic Bruni turn his Fort William fortunes around?
  4. Who will be the first time winner in the Women’s field?
  5. Where will Jordan Williams’ time stack up in Elite Men?
Men’s podium 2019

Watch it here:

Live finals schedule on Red Bull TV:

DH Women

The Women’s Elite final takes place on Sunday, 22 May, at 12:30pm (UK).

DH Men

The Men’s Elite final takes place on Sunday, 22 May, at 1:30pm (UK). 

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  • This topic has 83 replies, 34 voices, and was last updated 3 weeks ago by Simon.
Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 83 total)
  • DH World Cup Round 2 – Fort William Race Preview
  • Premier Icon weeksy
    Full Member

    I’m not sure at this stage we have a lot of ‘form’ to go by.. The fast guys will all be fast, but i’d guess any of 10-15 of them could easily be on the podium.

    You’d imagine at least 1 will be French though.

    Premier Icon Sharkattack
    Free Member

    When you’re trying to pick the winner of a DH race, there are two factors that help guide you towards your decision: form and history. Amaury Pierron….

    Amaury Pierron had never even visited the podium before bagging 3 wins in a row in 2018 so I’d say your own example kind of disproves your own theory.

    Weeksy is right there’s probably a dozen riders who could win. I’d like to see Pierron on fire because he’s one of the fastest riders we’ve ever seen but I’d also like to see old man Minnaar open the taps on the motorway and out drag everyone with raw power like he used to.

    Premier Icon Yak
    Full Member

    Gutted she is missing it, but 100% the right thing to rest and heal up.
    Nicole racing after the practice crash at Lourdes didn’t look right at the time either, but she seems to be back now.

    Premier Icon Fahzure Freeride
    Full Member

    So much equivocating! If that whole MTB journalism thing doesn’t work out for George, there’s a future in the law for him.

    Premier Icon a11y
    Full Member

    Go on George, are you confident enough to make top-3 predictions for the categories? I’m not…

    Premier Icon chrismac
    Full Member

    It appears that Mryam is out too for the same reasons. It’s going to be a straight fight between Cami and Holl for the ladies

    Premier Icon Fahzure Freeride
    Full Member

    @a11y I think that George has a policy against reading comments on his articles, so I will disclose that George has big money on Amaury and Finn.

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member

    @fahzure he does read the comments, he’s just driving to Fort Bill right now! Patience!

    Premier Icon George Thompson
    Full Member

    🙂 Looking at the stats, more so than any other track people tend to be good or bad at Fort William. There are of course exceptions to the rule, that’s racing! Podium picks…

    Mens: Pierron, Wilson, Vergier, Hart, Bruni

    Womens: Nicole, Hoffmann, Balanche, Hoell, Cabirou

    Enjoy the racing everyone. Should have quite a bit of content to share over the next couple of days!

    Premier Icon George Thompson
    Full Member

    @fazhure I always read the comments! Working off a 0.5mb connection & was torn between Finn / Bruni / Daprela for the final podium place.

    Who are you all picking?

    Premier Icon Fahzure Freeride
    Full Member

    George does not fear the comments! 😂

    Daprela; Pierron; Illes; Hart; Bruni

    Hoffmann, Balanche, Hoell, Cabirou, Pompom

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Full Member

    Pierron, Hart, Illes.

    Premier Icon a11y
    Full Member

    Who are you all picking?

    Pierron, Illes, Daprela, Hart, Bruni

    Hoffmann, Holl, Balanche, Cabirou, Hrastnik

    I didn’t think Pompon was racing due to concussion effects? Or is she racing in spite of those? I know Tahnee’s sitting this one out for the same reason.

    I don’t get to head up noth until Saturday morning, cannot wait 🙂

    Premier Icon wipperman95
    Free Member

    Having read the two concussion articles on Pinkbike, I’d say the sport probably needs new protocols. Who let Myriam ride after her crash, after spending time in a darkened room to ‘recover’.

    Not good enough….

    Premier Icon snotrag
    Full Member

    I cant wait. Clashes with the F1 and I usually watch F1 live then catch up on Red Bull but reckon I’ll switch that this sunday. Gutted I’m not going – I remember being there year after year in the old days, including being in the ‘pit’ (it really was a pit, like a scrum!) around the finish arena the year that Peaty finally won.

    Form is really difficult – its been so long since the first round, everyone has been off doing various national races… I’d love Danny to win, and EVERYONE would love Greg to win but I reckon its too open to call.

    For the ladies, I reckon Nina Hoffman is a good shout – she always looks strong, stable, and, if i can say it without meaning to offend – like she rides like one of the men – Thats got to be a good basis for a result on this absolute monster of a track.

    TL:DR

    Who are you all picking?

    Danny Hart.

    Nina Hoffman.

    Premier Icon paul-b
    Full Member

    I’m hoping to see Wilson take the victory in the mens, I reckon he could do it.

    In the womens I reckon either Vali or Cami…or Rachel has just been blagging it in terms of being race ready and comes back and smokes everyone (don’t think that’s really going to happen)

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member

    Latest Gwin video:

    Premier Icon a11y
    Full Member

    Well, I knew I wouldn’t predict the correct result but I didn’t expect to know that on Thursday afternoon… that’s Finn not racing due to concussion, so I’ll need to amend by prediction.

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member

    https://www.instagram.com/p/CdvnFibtmUB/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
    Confirmation Finn is out.

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member
    Premier Icon weeksy
    Full Member

    Hannah, not all of us have or can view Insta.

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member

    Pic shows Rachel in full kit on a bike. It’ll be in a track walk story soon too. It’s not clear that she’s racing, but she is in kit and riding.

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Full Member

    awesome!

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member

    Also, apparently Amaury is on a 29er. Trying to get a pic!

    Premier Icon Speeder
    Full Member

    Surprised Pierron wasn’t on 29 already. Isn’t he pretty tall?

    Premier Icon crab
    Free Member

    Rachel on the qualifying start list, would be great to see her back after all this time.

    Premier Icon Hannah Dobson
    Full Member

    You’ve got to feel for Meghan Flanagan! Imagine being in your first World Cup qualifying race and having Rachel chasing you down the hill! Meghan’s attitude is fun though – check what she has to say at the start of George’s podcast.

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Full Member

    Anyone know where full results are from today?

    Premier Icon LD
    Free Member

    They’re on UCI site. Bottom of this page – Linky

    Looks like Reece walked it!!

    Premier Icon andy can
    Free Member

    For anyone braving the midges…💪🤘💥

    Premier Icon gardentiger
    Free Member

    Hardly any woods or slow sections this time around.

    I’m predicting some nasty smashes with the length of track, fatigue and tighter margins.

    It looks like one of those where a cannier rider with an eye on the overall might decide to settle for a top 10 and leaving in one piece on Sunday evening.

    I’d live to see Pierron ride balls out and win it. He is pretty much untouchable if he keeps it on track. If I had to put the mortgage on anyone being top 5 it would be Bruni, though.

    Premier Icon gardentiger
    Free Member

    Vital Raw are being a bit slow to get their footage up!

    Premier Icon keefezza
    Free Member

    Bruni is out, broken collar bone confirmed on Instagram and PB.

    Premier Icon crab
    Free Member

    5 out of the top 10 mens qualifiers are Brits, good going guys. Greenland 2 1/2 seconds out front, Hatton second, Minnaar 3rd, Pierron 4th then Kerr, Vergier and Hart in 7th. Still a few to go but that’s probably how it’ll be.

    Daprela 15th and Thirion 17th.

    Reece quite a long way back. And Gwin almost a minute back, can’t get my head how he can fall so far behind.

    Premier Icon Simon
    Full Member

    Excitement is building!

    Nina Hoffman was leading until the final split – flat tyre apparently.

    Jackson Goldstone storming with what would have been a 4th position.

    As suspected, Rachel was a DNS.

    Cathro in 37th making up considerable time on the lower sections.

    Premier Icon keefezza
    Free Member

    That’s good to hear about Nina Hoffman, one of my dream teamers.

    I’ve got…

    Laurie Greenland
    Jade Edwards
    Taylor Vernon
    Matt Walker
    Nina Hoffman
    Mikayla Parton

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