Aonach Mor is always a tough nut to crack but this year it seemed especially tough. We pick our stand out riders from this years Fort William World Cup.
If you’ve ridden the World Cup course at Fort William you will know just how brutal it is. Add in the pressure of racing and thousands of screaming fans as well as a blown out turns, rutted up woods sections and of course the clock and it becomes a whole new ball game. Fort William is a as tough as it gets and we doth our Trucker Caps to all that get down to the bottom. Like every year there were some stand out riders for us in 2016, we each pick our man or woman of the match.
Simon’s Pick – Laurie Greenland
Fort William is a mans track. I’ve head that more times than I care to remember. It seems to be the the soundbite that everyone refers to if you mention Fort William. It is a mans track in as much as you need power, endurance, bravery (stupidity?) and resilience. So whilst I expected to see the usual suspects battling for top 10 spots and Greg Minnaar was no massive surprise I was a bit bowled over to see the very slight Laurie Greenland put down a run that was worthy of all of his competitors respect. Seeing his tiny physique almost dwarfed by his Mondraker Summum as he pushed out the gate it was hard not to feel nervous for him. Sure, he’s a junior champ, we know he’s fast but this time he was battling against the big boys. Seasoned pro’s who put down immense power and seemingly dominate the brutal rocks and terrain of Fort William.
But that didn’t intimidate Greenland, not one bit. From the moment he dropped out the start hut he put down an immense run, man handling his Summum and skipping over the rocks like they were pebbles. He ran clean through the woods and then, most impressively, pedaled so hard with so much power through the motorway section that for a moment it looked like he may well have been over-jumping those enormous table-tops. And as he crossed the line, where most bury their heads into their bars with overwhelming exhaustion, Greenland had a grin ear-to-ear and a thumbs up to the appreciative fans. He absolutely smashed it and there he was sitting with a time that put him into third spot next to Fort William Master and 35 year old giant of the sport Greg Minnaar. For some time few could push him off that 3rd spot seat and when all was said and done only 5 of his following competitors could do anything to beat his time. Laurie Greenland is only just finding his feet at this level. What happens to everyone else when he does?
Lazy’s Pick – Adam Brayton
Adam has been on the world cup circuit for 11 years now, starting out back in Fort William in 2006. Regularly finishing in the top 50, occasionally breaking into the top 30. His best result to date was a spectacular 6th in Champery in 2007. His best result in Fort William, however, was 29th, only last year. His nickname ‘Gas to Flat’ goes someway to describe his riding style.
Not one to shy away from the jumps and a little style but it doesn’t always go his way. His results don’t show a true reflection of his riding abilities but this weekend goes to show that when he puts a run together, he can mix it with the best of them. Will this result encourage him to try and keep it rubber side down from now on? Where can he go from here? Maybe we’ll see this coming weekend in Leogang. Good luck lad and do us proud in Austria.
Rob’s Pick – Greg Minnaar
Stand out riders. Fort William really bought them out this year. George Gannicott, 10th in quali’s, that was so sick. Eddie Masters, what the hell were you doing qualifying second, epic! And your race run, well, hero to zero in, for you, 5 minutes 40 seconds, legend. Just keep the comedy off track next time. Brayton, that was loose, well done. But Greg, well Greg just smashed the competition yet again. Just when you think he’s over it, just when you think maybe Greg’s even had his day, he comes back and shows everyone that he is still the greatest male downhill racer there has ever been.
This is his 19th World Cup win and as he showed us this weekend, it looks like he wants to fend the likes of Gwin away from that statistical goal for a little longer. He did it with an impressive margin as well, 3.357 seconds, that’s a fair gap even for a big track like Fort Bill.
Greg has become a massive icon within the sport on board his V10 and O’neal gear. He has such great sportsmanship, focus and athletic ability. Greg doesn’t often get loose like many riders scraping in top results, he makes the sketchiest of sections look easy to the on looker. His ability on a bike is so dialed, it’s impressive to watch his precision and his run in this WC wasn’t any different.
Well done Greg. In the words of Warner, the greatest that has ever been just got greater.
The only thing going through Greg’s mind after this race must be if only he had that .5mm stem spacer on in the first two WC rounds this season. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing.
Tom’s Pick – Tracey Hannah
The obvious pick in the ladies would be Rachel Atherton, a 9th WC win on the trot is no mean feat, and she’s made her feelings known on the “Rach has got this, no problem” school of thought. For me the pick of the weekend, from men and women has to be Tracey Hannah. From Friday morning practice she was charging like no other. From my various vantage points down the track it seemed like every other rider was Tracey!
In the woods on Sunday morning practice there was a steady queue of riders scratching their heads and trying to find a way through. Most were happy to have a couple of runs, picking a safe line and content to just make it through upright. Not Tracey, she walked more laps than most of us do on a day on the bike, determined to stick the “manly” straight line through the middle of the stumps, begrudgingly moving on as the sweepers set off.
On her finals run she put a margin into the other girls that left most people exclaiming “How much?!” While no stranger to the podium, it’s been a few years since she’s taken to the top step. I don’t doubt that she is as hungry as they get.
Photos by Tom Laws and Chris Lazenby