The drive through the highlands to Fort William provides many stunning scenes
The UCI Mountain Bike World cup at Fort William is legendary and, as a first timer to the event, the nerves were starting to make themselves known as I drove the amazing A82 that snakes it’s way through Scotland. The banks of Loch Lomond signal the start of the epic views that leave you full of awe all the way to the stunning Nevis range.
The world cup course on Aonach Mòr lies among the Nevis range which was once the training ground of the British Commandos during WW2
Stunning everywhere you look
Preparations were in full swing on Thursday morning with the pits a hive of activity for busy mechanics and team personnel who were getting ready for the four days ahead.
Media pass collected and new mascot attached to the bag for the weekend
Quick catch up with Moore Large/O’Neal riders Douglas and Roger Vieira in the team pits. Douglas was still carrying an injury on his ankle from a nasty crash here 3 weeks ago and was unsure how it would hold up over the course of the weekend.
Deadly serious at all times with these guys….
And we were soon off in the gondola to the top in the blazing sunshine, a very welcome change from the usual Scottish summer weather.
Laughs and smiles. For now…
The track walk was very enlightening for a first timer like myself. Everything you have seen over the years on videos does not do this place justice. The rocks, drops, jumps and overall gnarliness are all multiplied by 100 when you see the place first hand.
The famous Fort William start hut
Rocks. Many many rocks
The boardwalk section that carries the riders over the boggy parts of the course at the top
More huge rocks.
The boys choosing their lines underneath the gondolas
Time for an interview with Nick on the way down
The infamous woods section that would prove to be some riders downfall come race day.
All smiles for now but unfortunately not for long.
Friday morning and the sun was still doing it’s thing as last minute checks on the bike and kit were done before the first practice runs got underway.
Top 60 plate for Douglas after the first round of the world cup in Croatia.
All kit checked and cleaned before that exciting first run.
Douglas tackling the steep rocks on his first run.
Speed tucking the boardwalk.
The rocks on the exposed top section are never ending.
Douglas trying hard to keep the Polygon on it’s wheels to keep the speed up.
Style for miles.
The track winds it way down the exposed mountainside of Aonach Mòr with glorious views that stretched for miles.
Roger pinning down one of the many rocky chutes
Douglas styling it up past the Silverline wallride.
Moving down the course and the roots proved no match for Roger as he leapt his way down.
Friday practice finished, it was time to head back to the pits and discuss how the days riding went. Douglas’ ankle was very painful by now and he was unsure whether he would be riding the following day.
The weekend forecast didn’t look very promising on Friday night
The locals didn’t seem to care too much about the weather forecast.
The glorious sound of bagpipes filled the air all weekend.
Luckily, Saturday morning proved the weather forecast wrong for a change and it was straight into practice and then qualifying in the afternoon.
Unfortunately this was a day to forget for the team.
A quick video interview in the pits to start the day.
Pre Qualifying video’s done, it was time to head back up the mountain.
Douglas was first down in morning practice and a crash near the top didn’t get the day off to a great start. With his ankle proving too painful, he made the decision not to ride again or attempt qualifying in a bid to heal the injury for the upcoming races.
Despite the crash further back on the course there was no stopping the style from Douglas.
Looking more like he came from a boxing ring it was weekend over for Douglas.
Douglas will hopefully be back to full strength for the next round of the WC at Leogang.
Roger was on track shortly after and although he was fast all day Friday, he was even faster and absolutely flying in practice and was looking for a good qualifying position for race day.
Last minute bike check
Roger was pinned all morning and anticipations were high for the afternoon.
And then it was over.
As Roger came into view of the finish line he overcooked the drop down the “wall” and landed virtually to flat at the bottom and crashed heavily. The impact seeing him crunch sickeningly onto the bike then tumbling across the track, thankfully in front of some off duty medics who looked after him until the course medical team appeared shortly after.
A just conscious Roger immediately after the horrific crash in qualifying.
His O’Neal helmet stayed intact and helped prevent any serious head injury.
A long, anxious wait as Roger was prepared to be stretchered down to the medical centre where he was looked after by the medical staff until taken away to the local hospital.
The medical staff were amazing in their response and prompt action.
Roger was kept overnight in hospital for observation but was thankfully discharged on Sunday afternoon with bruised lungs and ribs, many scratches and bruises all over but miraculously free of any serious injuries.
And that was the weekend over for the team. Not the finish to the weekend the team wanted but at least Douglas and Roger walked away to race another day.
Race day itself was a bit of an anticlimax with no team riders. Luckily the forecast rain appeared after the racing had finished and Scotland had proved to be an unforgettable weekend for many.
My lasting memories of the weekend are of Roger sending it huge off the Scotland sender.
And of Douglas riding the wallride with more style than anyone all weekend.
Loch Leven sunset
Scotland. You were epic