Anyone for Semis? Fort William World Cup DH results & talking points

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The first World Cup Downhill round of the year took place in not-rainy Scotland. Here’s the results, reports, highlights vids and some chat.

RACE HIGHLIGHTS | Womens UCI Downhill World Cup Fort William:

RACE HIGHLIGHTS | Mens UCI Downhill World Cup Fort William:

DH World Cup Fort William: results

Race reports and photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports:

VALENTINA HÖLL AND LOÏC BRUNI KICK OFF UCI DOWNHILL WORLD CUP TITLE DEFENCES IN STYLE

Valentina Höll (YT Mob) and Loïc Bruni scored victories in the UCI Mountain Bike World Series in Fort William. The reigning UCI Downhill World Champion continued her winning ways on the Fort William course, while Bruni finally finished top at the 10th time of asking at this iconic track. Meanwhile, Heather Wilson (Muc-Off Young Guns) gave the locals something to cheer for in the Women’s Juniors and Asa Vermette (Framework Racing) obliterated the competition despite breaking his pelvis five weeks ago.

The 2024 WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series rolled into Fort William, Scotland, for the first UCI Downhill World Cup of the season, and the fan-favourite course served up some adrenaline-fuelled action with Valentina Höll (YT Mob) and Loïc Bruni kicking off their seasons with wins.

Aaron Gwin, Downhill Ambassador of the WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series, said: “The first UCI Downhill World Cup in Fort William didn’t disappoint! The Men’s and Women’s Elite finals showed that this season will be one to watch, and this legendary course served up some amazing racing once again.”

HÖLL FINISHES STRONG TO TAKE HER FIRST WIN OF THE SEASON

Valentina Höll might only be 22, but the reigning UCI Downhill World Champion and last year’s UCI World Cup Downhill overall series winner has cemented herself as the favourite whenever she enters the start hut.

The Austrian has good form on Fort William’s course, having won her second consecutive rainbow jersey at the Nevis Range venue, and has looked like the woman to beat all weekend after winning Saturday’s Women’s Elite semi-final qualifiers.

Gloria Scarsi (Canyon CLLCTV Pirelli) set the early pace, putting in a consistent run from top to bottom that would see the Italian hold on to a podium spot – the third of her UCI Downhill World Cup career.

Monika Hrastnik (Dorval AM Commencal), Mille Johnset (Canyon CLLCTV Factory Team) and Marine Cabirou (Scott Downhill Factory) all couldn’t find an answer, and it was a blistering run from Nina Hoffman (Santa Cruz Syndicate) that finally knocked Scarsi out of the hot seat.

Tahnée Seagrave (Canyon CLLCTV FMD) was the closest to the German rider’s time but wasn’t able to keep her high early pace in the second half of the course – the British rider continuing her promising form in front of a loud and supportive set of fans and guaranteeing a podium spot.

And then there was Höll. The last rider on the hill, she was a second back in the second split on the mountain, but managed to pull it back in the fast, flowing bottom half of the course to win by 0.5 seconds.

Speaking after the race, Valentina Höll said: “We have a brand-new bike, brand new people on the team. It was the track where I won World Championships last year but there was no time to even rest. It’s a tough track to start the season. It wasn’t one of my best runs. I was so loose and tired at the end. I’ve never been on top at the first race so I’m really happy and I can just get better.”

Second-placed Nina Hoffman said: “I got everything right apart from one mistake but as Vali [Höll] wasn’t gaining time in this sector I thought it was tight and that she was going to get me on the Motorway. But that’s racing – at least it was tight. The competition is insane.”

Third-placed Tahnée Seagrave said: “I’m so happy. I’ve been working really hard this off-season and I’ve just been building confidence. It’s been probably four or five years since I’ve felt like I was at podium contender pace, so it’s pretty good to be up there.”

BRUNI BREAKS HIS DUCK IN FORT WILLIAM

Loïc Bruni has six UCI Downhill World Championships and three UCI World Cup overall titles to his name, but the Frenchman had never managed a win at Fort William in his nine previous races in Scotland.

‘Superbruni’ was on a different planet at the 2024 season opener though, going one second up after the first split on Dakotah Norton’s (Mondraker Factory Racing) then-race leading time before extending his advantage as he flew down the mountain.

Saturday’s fastest qualifier, Troy Brosnan (Canyon CLLCTV Factory Team), came closest to knocking Bruni out of the hot seat but the Australian and 2014 Fort William UCI World Cup winner could only get within 1.8 seconds to finish in second place. Bruni’s teammate, Finn Iles (Specialized Factory Gravity), made it a successful overall weekend for Specialized Factory Gravity by taking third, while Dakotah Norton and Luca Shaw (Canyon CLLCTV Factory Team) rounded out the podium in fourth and fifth respectively.

Greg Williamson (Madison Saracen Factory Team) was the highest-placed British rider in 7th, while fan favourite Reece Wilson (Trek Factory Racing Gravity) finished 16th – an impressive return after two injury-hit seasons.

Speaking after his win, Bruni said: “I’ve never been super strong here. I’ve struggled a lot in the last few years, but I knew I could do it one day or another. This weekend, I’ve been struggling a bit with the wet but today the clouds held off so there was no rain and I thought this was the opportunity. I’m feeling strong, the bike is good, everything was perfect for it.

I pushed everywhere; I wasn’t fresh at the bottom but I gave it [my] all. I’m so happy. That’s such an achievement for me and I’m over the moon.

“The mental side is the hardest because this track is so mean. It’s super rough – the bike and your body are taking big slams and I feel like everything has to click at once and it’s not always easy to do it at the right time in finals. I finally did it.”

Second-placed Troy Brosnan said: “10 years ago, I won here in 2014. Coming back from a very up-and-down season last year I wanted to go strong. Second place for me today feels like a win. I’m in a better head space and the bike is really working underneath me.

Third-placed Finn Iles said: “I wanted it a little too much at the start and I think I raced quite smart because I knew I was attacking too much and it’d probably lead to a crash so I brought it back a little bit, calmed down and rode the bottom part really fast and smooth. It’s a good marker because if I have the right mindset coming into the next race. I know I can ride faster than I did today and hopefully I can get on the top step.”

WILSON SHOWS THE FUTURE IS SCOTTISH

In the Juniors, there was something for the Scottish fans to cheer for in the Women’s Juniors final with local rider Heather Wilson (Muc-Off Young Guns) taking the win in her first-ever UCI World Cup Junior race. The 17-year-old used her experience on the Fort William course to post the only sub-five-minute run of the age group event, with Sacha Earnest (Trek Factory Racing Gravity) and Eliana Hulsebosch (Union – Forged by Steel City Media) finishing in second and third respectively more than 3.5 seconds back. The 2023 UCI World Champion Erice Van Leuven (Commencal Les Orres) was last down the hill and looked set to edge Wilson out of the hot seat until a rear flat in the final sector meant she had to settle for fifth.

Heather Wilson said: “It doesn’t feel real. I don’t feel like I’ve won. I’m so glad that it’s done, and I’ve crossed the line in one piece. I’m so happy. I have no words to describe how I feel right now. [The weather] was actually perfect because the track still had some grip – it wasn’t too slippy. Some of the corners are blown up, so I just took my time and pushed into them. You need to trust these corners and it worked out perfectly.

VERMETTE MAKES A WINNING RETURN FROM INJURY

Meanwhile in the Men’s Juniors, Asa Vermette (Framework Racing) blew away the rest of the field with a storming 4:10.55. The American broke his pelvis at the end of March but showed no signs of being held back in Scotland, laying down the fastest splits in three out of four sectors. Luke Wayman (The Gravity Cartel – Rogue Racing) did enough for second, while the local rising star and fastest qualifier Daniel Parfitt (BNC Racing) gave the Scottish fans another thing to cheer with third.

Asa Vermette said: “I pictured my run. It was exactly how I pictured it. I couldn’t have done it any better. I’m actually shaking right now. Two weeks ago I was sitting on the couch and watching as many GoPro videos as I could of the track that I was about to race. I didn’t even know if I was going to make it to this race.”

Talking points

  • Did anyone know that the Semi Finals weren’t being broadcast? Is this the case for the rest of the season?
  • Marginal gains: quasi-skinsuits, electronic damping, aero disc fairings? Might ostly be mind games. But it worked.
  • Massive riser bars. Dakota Norton’s 75mm risers. Oof!
  • High pivot idlers are dead! Long live the new era of super linkage bikes! Only really Specialized and Canyon, but still… Actually, the bnew Saracen Mysts did well too.
  • We’d forgotten how stylish a rider Reece Wilson is. Welcome back Reece!
  • Will anyone challenge Vali Holl? It already only feels like it’s Holl’s title to lose.
  • Asa Vermette’s time. Wowsers.

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Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

More posts from Ben

Viewing 33 posts - 1 through 33 (of 33 total)
  • Anyone for Semis? Fort William World Cup DH results & talking points
  • mark88
    Full Member

    A few typos in there…

     

    Bruni’s brake cover is to keep them dry apparently, not aero.

    fenderextender
    Free Member

    Semis need to be canned. Bernard Kerr talks some shmack and some sense, but he’s bob on about semis.

    TBH, the new format is a PITA. The only reason semis are a thing is so that ESO can say they’ve broadcast ‘some’ racing FOC. It’s just another layer of qualifying when all is said and done. You’re also asking the riders to do 50% more ‘live’ runs per weekend – the attrition will creep us as a result.

    Back with RB you could always watch the full programme later on YT. Now, I can’t see a way to do it. It is either live or not at all. So, if it doesn’t fit in with what else I’ve got going on (it frequently doesn’t), I end up not bothering at all. I’m no great loss to ESO money-wise, but I’ll just drift away in the end I guess.

    Other thoughts – I hope stuff like electric suspension changing can either be adopted across the board or sanctioned somehow. I’d prefer it if DH didn’t go down the F1 route.

    dirkpitt74
    Full Member

    It was an awesome weekend’s racing.

    I think qualy and semi’s on the same day worked really well – meant the riders were fresh to smash the race run on Sunday.

    Simon
    Full Member

    I didn’t think any of the semis were broadcast?

    cookeaa
    Full Member

    I didn’t think any of the semis were broadcast?

    Eurosport?

    TBH I was a bit busy this weekend so only ended up watching some highlights on YT.

    mtnboarder
    Full Member

    Semis have been rendered even more pointless by not being broadcast. Somehow ESO have introduced something supposedly to increase the racing, yet reduced the broadcast output at the same time. Sponsors of lower tier riders will be struggling to justify why they bother.

    30 and 10 in the final is just too few- I would have been gutted to have paid for a ticket, only to see a fraction of the entrants actually ride on sunday, especially with 5 minutes between them. Wide taping looks awful for spectating too.

    Spectator numbers on site looks way down on previous years, so I hope Nevis aren’t taking too big a financial hit from it.

    Shortening the course at the start and finish just to satisfy TV schedules is just wrong. Especially the finish line..

    Coverage was a bit better than last year, but the moody bike and rider studio shots can do one.

    Aero and suspension tech is going too far for me, electronic suspension that’s not likely to ever be for the mass market is a step too far.

    Racing was great though- rider standards are about the only thing the UCI/ESO haven’t been able to mess up!

    dafoj
    Free Member

    Not much love for the semis on WynTV.

    After the frustration of watching semis only on Ceefax, I thought finals day was great. TV commentary was better with Tahnee on

    chakaping
    Free Member

    I bet the Semis not being shown was a scheduling conflict decision at Eurosport/Discovery, or maybe a technical issue (were qualis shown?).

    The lack of comms on the issue is more damning, and typical of the new management.

    Aaron Gwin, Downhill Ambassador of the WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series, said: “The first UCI Downhill World Cup in Fort William didn’t disappoint! The Men’s and Women’s Elite finals showed that this season will be one to watch, and this legendary course served up some amazing racing once again.”

    Yeah, he definitely said that.

    TV commentary was better with Tahnee on

    The spell with Tahnee and Gwin was great, Ric actually shut his yapper for a bit and let them give some real insight.

    nickc
    Full Member

    Bruni’s brake cover is to keep them dry apparently, not aero.

    Won’t hurt though. I’d bet money there’s an streamlining effect.

    joefm
    Full Member

    dont really care about electronic suspension.  Really like that some bike companies like spesh are making world cup specials rather than the standard bikes anyone can buy.

    Doesnt take away from the spectacle.  Plenty of bigger issues.

    muggomagic
    Full Member

    The semis (and qualifying too I think) were broadcast last year. I’m pretty sure they were advertising being able to watch the qualifying and semis live earlier in the month for Fort William too, so maybe there was a technical issue which meant they couldn’t, but it was pretty disappointing that they didn’t. The whole point of the semis was that it was a way to trim down the field but also give some airtime for those outside the top riders so I don’t see the point in having it if they aren’t going to broadcast it. May as well just have the finals be top 60 and just broadcast the top 30 plus any of the protected riders as they do for finals now.

    Andrew Neethling had a pretty good idea for it. He said you have qualifying and the top 30 go through to finals, and then those outside the top 30 get a second run and the top 10 of that go through to finals. If someone has a mechanical in the semis then they are out at least this way you’ve had 2 chances to make it through. It also means the top guys are doing less runs and some privateer that has the run of their life in quali and finishes 5th makes it to the final rather than having to do it all again for semis.

    desperatebicycle
    Full Member

    What about the return of (they might as well be) skinsuits? I mean, I really don’t give a monkeys what they wear, but flibbermegibbet there are some extraordinarily ugly kits out there! Nothing that anyone would be seen dead in anywhere else but in a UCI downhill race. Must be bad for the clothing sponsors!

    ocrider
    Full Member

    I like the idea being floated of scrapping the semis, having 20 go through from the quali straight to the final followed by a Supercross inspired last chance qualifier to decide the other 10. Raise the women’s final to 15 riders, so 10 straight to final and 5 from the LCQ.

    For the TV viewing public it makes sense to have the junior final preceding the elites on the Sunday. Having the semis followed by the final last year was exhausting to watch in it’s entirety, but that does mean if you’re there on site quali day is more interesting.

    Shortening the course at the start and finish just to satisfy TV schedules is just wrong.

    If it means being able to broadcast the top 5 riders full runs live with some quick replays of the spicy bits, that’s the pay off. It’s still better to have a slightly shortened version of Ft Bill than none at all.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Shorter course was fine by me. FW is boring anyway.

    There are a few decent ideas floating around, but IMO it’s becoming clear it should have been a top 40 in the mens’ rather than 30. The depth of talent is just that good now.

    And should the World Champ have protected status? Gutted not to see Charlie Hatton in the final. Not least because he was in my fantasy team.

    ayjaydoubleyou
    Full Member

    And should the World Champ have protected status? Gutted not to see Charlie Hatton in the final.

    I’m really split on this. On the one hand he’s won an elite event and got no ongoing benefit from it. If he’d pulled that winning run out on any other year when Ft Bill was a world cup round not world champs, he’d probably be a protected rider.

    On the other, giving him protected status it goes further to make world champs “just another world cup race” which seems to diminish the specialness of it.

    eskimonumber1
    Full Member

    There was also a very long (1+ hour) red flag on Saturday before the semi finals that might have thrown the broadcast schedule out of the window.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Interesting.

    A competent broadcasting organistion would then have had the commentators apologise and explain the situation during the main show.

    teenrat
    Full Member

    I’m still against protected status. Especially in the first race of a season. Why should the standings from last season be carried over to determine protection?  It should be a clean slate.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    If the idea of  second chance qualifier was introduced, we could happily lose protected status.

    As it is, the randomness of punctures and mechanicals can rob fans of seeing the riders they want to.

    teenrat
    Full Member

    As it is, the randomness of punctures and mechanicals can rob fans of seeing the riders they want to.

    But this is part and parcel of mountain biking.

    Bk made a huge error but still gets into the final.  This wasn’t random.

    ayjaydoubleyou
    Full Member

    In the first race last year Minnaar punctured in his quali, semi and final I think.

    His protected status of finishing 10th in 2022 (by only 2 points over 11th) gifted him a free pass to that final, where he rode down on the rim to finish 30th and pick up 30 points.

    He’s probably one of if not my favourite rider but I don’t want to see that. Getting a free gift based on past performance isn’t good for fairness or finding the best new talent.

    I like Needle’s idea. Also like the alternate idea that “protected riders” get the option to have a second chance qualifying run if they mess up. No quali points on your second chance time but you do get to race.

    chiefgrooveguru
    Full Member

    “Shorter course was fine by me. FW is boring anyway.”

    I’ve never liked the FW track as an online viewer. It would be so much more fun to watch if the motorway jumps at the bottom happened somewhere in the middle of the track, rather than dominating the viewing and being how the race appears to be won or lost (although I’m sure the race is really won by finding the right balance of speed vs effort at the top so you minimise time loss there vs lower down due to fatigue).

    I haven’t watched a full race since it moved from Red Bull – paying for something that won’t fit as easily into my life, as well as being less exciting than the old free broadcast is not going to happen!

    chakaping
    Free Member

    In the first race last year Minnaar punctured in his quali, semi and final I think.

    Yep, one extra chance is enough.

    I think just having outright protection gives an unfair advantage in that they don’t have to hang it out as much as the others if conditions are dicey.

    chrismac
    Full Member

    Sponsors of lower tier riders will be struggling to justify why they bother.

    i don’t see how tbh. Riders 60-30 were never broadcast anyway so it makes no difference. Personally I like that the ladies final rolls straight into the contenders for the men’s rather than an hours gap whilst 60-30 rolled down the hill to get no points and subdue the atmosphere whilst everyone else waits for the contenders to start. I appreciate this sounds harsh on that group of riders but it’s the reality of professional sport and TV exposure which is the only way to make the sport more valuable to sponsors and eventually riders

    Gribs
    Full Member

    Previously riders 60-30 weren’t shown live but they were all filmed in case one of them made the podium and they still had a chance of a decent result.

    oldfart
    Full Member

    With all the waffle from UCI about skinsuits I always thought the bikes themselves would be scrutinized before racing ? All those covers on hush hush prototype parts could potentially be hiding dodgy stuff ?

    crab
    Free Member

    For me the last season and now this are the classic example of… if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it. But some bean counters who don’t actually understand the sport think they know better. It’s sad to see numbers at FW and, by the sound of it, energy in the crowd down too.  Commentary in the finish area sounded dire from what I could hear.

    The format was fine before. Qualis one day final next- done.

    Edit to agree, yes, outright protection makes the whole thing a lot less exciting.

    ayjaydoubleyou
    Full Member

    With all the waffle from UCI about skinsuits I always thought the bikes themselves would be scrutinized before racing ? All those covers on hush hush prototype parts could potentially be hiding dodgy stuff ?

    maybe the winning bikes get more scrutiny but I think the mojo team ran a mullet setup for two years before it became legal and nobody ever checked

    alpin
    Free Member

    Enduro is dead.

    DH is dying.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Worth listening to the latest Making up the numbers podcast.

    Martin Whitely basically says next year is likely to see semis scrapped and replaced with this “last chance qualifier”, and possibly no protection at all.

    He had previously suggested a televised “WC2” small final for the riders who didn’t qualify, with the top ones going through to the main final.

    Which may have been even better – but it sounds like progress anyway.

    mtnboarder
    Full Member

    Martin Whitely seems to talk a lot of sense, perhaps he would be a better bet than the current team of organisers.

    nickc
    Full Member

    The format was fine before.

    I don’t mind them trying new things to mix it up, but I think everybody can see that semi-finals isn’t adding anything to it, and I think probably needs to be shelved.

    DH is dying.

    I don’t think it is at all. There’s a changing of the guard fo’shure but the depth of talent is bigger than it’s ever been, the junior races are just as good now as the elites and some of the kids are stupid fast – certainly good enough to place top 10 -20 in elites, and the Elite racing is proper guess-work these days, there’s maybe 10-15 men who’re good enough to place on the podium and its genuinely who’s best on the day now, same with the women’s racing 5-6 riders any of whom could win on the day.

    There’s so much griping about the broadcasting that folks have lost sight of the fact that the actual racing is as good as it’s ever been, if not better

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Martin Whitely seems to talk a lot of sense, perhaps he would be a better bet than the current team of organisers.

    Absolutely he would have done a much better job than Chris Ball & co.

    But I feel you could pick a handful of random gobshites from the Pinkbike comments and they’d have done a better job.

Viewing 33 posts - 1 through 33 (of 33 total)

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