Report – Aston Hill-Lovelo MTB Racing Team at Fort William

5am and Joe, Josh and Jeremy set off on the long journey north to Fort William for Round 2 of the British Nationals.

The team had been keeping an eye on the weather leading up to the race and initially it looked wet.

Friday morning and it was blowing a gale and unfortunately the gondola was not open so there wasn’t to be an extra day’s practice.

After a long hike up and down the mountain for track walk the team were allowed to push up and ride the track. As Josh and Jeremy had never been to Fort William it was a good chance to get used to some of the track features especially the big fast motorway jumps.

Saturday morning, no rain, no wind and bright sunshine perfect conditions. The track was last year’s World cup track using the new section just after Deer’s gate and it also used the much talked about new rock section in the woods which was freshly opened for this race.

1st days practice went well, few minor offs, no mechanicals and the Michelin Rock R2 tyres worked amazing with no issues or punctures for any of the team.

Bikes were checked over and it was back to the teams rented house, refuel and get ready for race day.

Sunday race day it was overcast with low cloud at the top of the mountain but the sun was beginning to shine through. It was going to be another near perfect day with the weather.

After a few practicing runs it was seeding then actual race runs. The whole team put in steady seeding runs and looked good for the finals. Unfortunately, there was an injury to a rider early on in proceedings and this delayed the race by an hour. During this time the wind was picking up at the top of the mountain but luckily the café offered good shelter from the cold.

Words by Jeremy Coe Youth category

I had never been to fort William before so was quite nervous leading up to the race. We arrived on Thursday evening and had planned to get some riding in on the Friday. Friday morning arrived at the venue but the winds were too strong which meant that the gondola couldn’t run. Later that day I did a track walk and got to see the track and get an idea of what it was going to be like. Saturday morning the sun was up and there was no wind which meant the gondola could run. I got 5 runs in on the Saturday getting used the track. The bike was running nicely and had no mechanicals or punctures throughout the day. The conditions were good and had plenty of grip.

Sunday morning, I arrived early at the venue and it was raining very slightly. The rain had stopped by the time I headed up for practice and the rain hadn’t really changed the track. I had two practice runs and was feeling ready for race runs. Seeding was ok but just wasn’t very fast. Cleaned the bike and rested for a while before heading up for my race run. My race run was ok with a few small mistakes but just struggled to keep my speed throughout the track. Overall, I ended up 12th in my category. Not the result I was looking for but know what I need to work on. Looking forward to Pearce round 2 at Bringewood in a few weeks’ time. Last weekend was a great experience racing and am just looking forward to more racing.

Seeding: 5:35 18th

Race run 5:35 12th

Words by Joe Killner Grand Vets category

I was a bit gutted not to be able to ride the track Friday but it gave me a chance to walk the track and have a good look at the new sections. This year was all about doing the motorway jumps as last year I only did the hip that leads into them.

Saturday morning and I felt relaxed but nervous about the new rocky section in the woods. It was good to exit the start hut and roll out onto the gravel surface. It wasn’t long before, boom! rocks and wake up to how rough Fort William is. Quick stop at Deer’s gate and it was on to the new world cup section which was a lot better than the old way around. The rocky woods were approaching and I rolled in and wobbled my way through. Not sure which way to go I stalled and big slow mo. over the bars. Not an ideal start but I was ok. Rolled down to the finish refuelled and I was off again. This time successfully made it through the woods and it was now time for the motorway jumps. I stopped at the bridge took a big breath and set off down the steep chute. Don’t brake everyone said, speed was fast I flew over the hip pedalled into the step down and onto the tables, I had done and what a relief. It was now time to fine tune.

Sunday race day I was feeling good as I went up the gondola, gentle roll down but I made another mistake in the woods. Seeding time and it was the woods that was playing on my mind. I set off using this run as another practice run, made it to the woods got through safe and it was over the jumps and home for 5th. Not the best of times but I knew I could improve.

Race time and after the long delay I set off feeling relaxed and ready. Top section was ok little too much braking but I was happy, popped out the woods safe and relived then all my energy drained. It was now a hard slog to the finish, pedalling hard over the jumps felt like riding treacle. I crossed the line and finished in 5th and podium. I wasn’t particularly happy with my time but podium and Fort William I will take any day.

It’s always good to leave Fort William injury free and with the bike performing with no mechanicals all weekend it all helps.

Seeding: 6:51 5th

Race run 6:38 5th

Words by Josh Mead Junior category

I was feeling good coming into the weekend although having never been, I was a bit anxious as to how I would do on the track. After walking the track on Friday and riding the last section, I was a lot more confident as it didn’t seem as bad as gnarly as I was expecting. It was a bit annoying the lift was closed on Friday so we couldn’t get some proper practice in but I found it quite easy to get up to speed on Saturday. The weather was nice and the track was dry so I used my Michelin Rock R 2s and they performed perfectly. The track was brutal however I got on with it better than I expected and felt good for Sunday. On Sunday morning I got one practice run in before seeding then had a long rest ready to put a full run down. I cruised down my seeding run trying to keep it smooth and saving some energy as well as trying to put a decent time down. It went well and I placed 12th. There were a few mistakes and places where I knew I had to go faster on if I wanted to do well in finals but I didn’t stress and prepared myself for my race run. After a long wait I went up to the top with my dad and met Ian (Firecrest MTB) at the top. I did my warm up and waited to drop in. The wind had picked up quite a bit so I tucked my shirt in before setting off. My run went well and I didn’t feel too affected by the wind. I got pretty tired as I got half way down and I now regret resting in places where I should have just pushed through as I was very close to getting a top ten. However, I know what I need to do for next time. I ended up 12th which I’m fairy pleased with, I would have liked a top ten and a faster time but I’ll get back to training and I’ll be sure to push harder on the next one.

Seeding: 5:33 12th

Race run 5:25 12th

We have just heard that Josh has been accepted to Race at Fort William and Leogang World Cups for Team GB which the whole team are excited about.

Thanks to SDA for organising a good race and next up for the team will be Pearce’s Bringewood.

Photo Credits: Sally Ross, Peter Smith, Ben Horne, Lewis – UKMTB, RM Photography

Many thanks to all of our Sponsors –

  • ION
  • Ison Distribution
  • Troy Lee Design
  • Mudhugger
  • Lovelo Cycle Works
  • Squirt
  • Invisframe
  • Friction Media –
  • Decade- Europe Ltd
  • 100%
  • Orange
  • Hope
  • Unior Tools
  • 2Pure
  • Michelin
  • Southcoast Suspension
  • Saddleback

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