Fort William is always a race I’m happy to be leaving. The track itself is probably the longest and most physical track of the season, meaning risk of mechanical failures and injury are the highest. I always find it hard to get into the rhythm of things when practicing, especially the first day of practice. There are so many straights that are so rough and rocky, it feels like you’re going to break your wheels and I don’t really enjoy that type of riding. That being said they made a really good new section in the middle of the track with a couple of sweet jumps and turns, which is something new for this place!
That brings you to the controversial woods section. Basically, it was a 50-meter section running through a natural spring so it is always muddy. There was no maintenance, despite many riders asking for it, to make it more rideable. I think of it similar to an oil slick in a Moto GP race, basically, a booby-trap section taking out half the riders completely out of sync with the rest of the track. I’m not really for or against having a section like that in the race, as long as everyone has to ride the same track, although maintaining it (which is not a big ask at all) after practice would have been nice.
Qualifying went okay for me, I actually crashed in the bog section but still qualified 19th to get a couple of crucial points. I was kind of glad I crashed there in qualifying it settled some superstitions of me thinking I can’t crash in the same place for qualifying and race run. It feels more like an enduro stage than a downhill sprint race here because of the time it takes to get down. You have to think about pacing yourself which you don’t need to worry about for most of the other world cups.
It rained quite a bit before race runs on Sunday which did the top open sections some good, because it puts some moisture into the dry slippery gravel making it much grippier. I had two solid practice runs and was confident for finals although the wood section always leaves doubt in your mind because it’s so easy to ruin your whole race in it. I set off a bit slow in my race but found a good rhythm, trying to focus on carrying speed the whole way down and not make any mistakes. I got through the wood section pretty well which was a huge relief because it is pretty straight forward to the finish from there. I always lose time at the flat sections in the last minute or two which is frustrating but something to work on for next year.
I finished in 8th place which is my best result at Fort William. I’m happy with that because now I’m confident I should be in the top 10 at any track and be a real threat to the podium. I moved back to 6th overall but the points are really close in front of me and I’m really excited coming into Leogang one of my favourite tracks this weekend.