It’s been an eventful start to the season so far in the Downhill contests, what with Gee Atherton borrowing a spectator’s Five Tens to ride to glory in Cairns and Steve Peat’s run being interrupted by some guy riding off with a competitor’s bike.
We’re hoping that Fort William won’t let us down then, but after all, when has that ever happened before?
As unlikely as it is that we’ll see a repeat of Gee Atherton’s bizarre shoe scandal in the north of Scotland this weekend, there is every chance that we’ll see him lifting the top prize in the contest just like he did in Australia. Along with the bonus boost of having won the last round of the DH, Gee has also won at Fort William in the British Downhill Series since, so he’s well prepped for the course.
When he took his win down under, the male Atherton was joined on the podium by his sister Rachel after she topped the women’s category, and there’s a stern possibility that we’ll be seeing the siblings come out on top this weekend again. It happened last year in Fort William after Rachel finally mastered the tricky course, and there won’t be many surprised by the outcome if it happens again.
Manon Carpenter will be the biggest roadblock for Rachel is she is to slip up though, having competed well throughout 2014. The British rider opened her term with a win in South Africa – albeit against an ill Rachel Atherton – and she came second at Fort Bill last year too. She’ll no doubt be eager to build upon that now.
Up against Gee? Well, even if he may not be up to his riding best, everyone this weekend will have their eyes on the return of The Chainsaw – Canadian athlete Stevie Smith. The rider took gold in his last three World Cup starts, but he’s just returning from a broken ankle now suffered in an off-season crash. It’d be a surprise to see him win, but a welcome one at that for many.
Greg Minnar will be in there too, and American Aaron Gwin, who still tops the rankings, will also be gunning for the top spot also – and likely using a DH bike in the DH World Cup for the first time this season.
There’s been a hell of a lot of complaints over the past year or so that the sport is going in the wrong direction physically. Fort William quells all of those in one fell swoop – it’s the king of DH courses; fast rough and ready to challenge.
Looking across to the 4X Pro Tour event to take place at Fort Bill, it should be great to see the new track in action after the revamping of the previously criticised lower sections.
The track saw big changes over the winter to bring the course up to date. 4X ProTour rider Scott Beaumont sums it up by saying: “Gone is the quad and in its place is a new triple jump that I’m sure will impress. A longer table top and widened rock section should give all the riders a fresh challenge.” Let’s hope he’s right.
Katy Curd is penned in to race in her home event in the run up to the 4X World Championships in Leogang next week, and that should get the fans cheering. She’ll have to fend off Dana Elena Schwika and Lucia Oetjen if she wants the win though – fierce competition.
The men’s contest meanwhile will see the British contingent of Scott Beaumont and Lewis Lacey lead the crowd cheers. With an array of winners and good looking competition from round one including the likes of Tomas Salvik, Felix Beckeman and Quentin Derbier though, the ranks are stacked going into this event. To add an extra element of competition, World Champ Joost Wichamn will also be there this weekend. Whoever wins is going to have to earn it hard.
At the end of the day, we all know Fort William is always going to offer us up a special story. Now it’s time to let that tale unfold, while, of course, frantically swatting midges and hiding from the inevitable rain.
Have a good weekend people. It’s going to be a big one.