Jasper Jauch’s UCI MTB DH World Cup Column: Fort William

Why is it so difficult to predict the favorites of “Fort Bill”? If I could answer that question in one sentence, this edition of the column would not exist.

The cult track in strong william, or as the locals like to call it, “Fort Bill,” is one of the oldest routes in the Downhill World Cup. But is it also old-fashioned or old-fashioned? Absolutely no way! If you look at the trends in today’s circuits, you can see the following characteristics: more open, less tight, faster, more artificial corners. Compared to the World Cup course laid out on the high moors of Scotland, you could say: Fort William was way ahead of its time.

Impressive with high speeds on artificially created stone fields, which can be seen from afar for the spectator, the driver and the track have never been apart. But why exactly is it now so difficult to tell which drivers have the right skills for this?

Downhill mountain biking pro Loic Bruni rides a boulder course at the World Cup in Fort William.

Suspension guru Loic Bruni literally floats through the stone fields.

© Red Bull Content Group

That’s what makes the Fort William track so difficult

Let’s stick to the track first before we talk about the requirements for drivers and equipment.

With a race time of almost 4.5 minutes, we are at a distance where it can certainly be said that the World Cup racers* also have to divide their forces.

Greg Minnar, who won the race at Fort Bill in 2017, rode the wooden elements in a relaxed sitting position for the first third. The battery of the body has to reach the finish line and if mistakes are made in the last part due to lack of strength, it takes more time than a relaxed sitting position at the beginning of the route. Brains are also required to score points on this route.

If you have distributed the power correctly and half of the race has gone well, the next challenge arrives. Your pulse will probably increase another 10 beats as soon as you can see the entrance to the forest in the distance.

If the weather in Scotland has been good, at least you just have to deal with the normal problems of sharp turns in really steep heels riddled with nasty roots. If dinner was not eaten the day before, you can still imagine the whole thing with the very slippery mild soap on the tires. The change of the driver from an extremely high speed with a lot of tension and body strength to a relaxed, highly concentrated and safe driving style is an absolute challenge during the adrenaline-charged race.

Downhill mountain biker Loic Bruni rides down a root field at the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William.

Mud, roots and slopes make traction difficult at Fort Bill…

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Group

I myself was able to experience once how I got stuck in the mud after a hard crash, which unfortunately ended the race. So if you’ve mastered the forest without falling off and reasonably quickly, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

The last part of the route, although less difficult, is no less time critical. The Motoway has big, long jumps that take and build a lot of momentum if mastered just right. The same, but exactly the other way around, if you have a small rack or are too wind-prone on the bike.

Small spoilers: nina hofman showed images from the wind tunnel on Instagram on May 17, 2022. This clearly underlines the relevance of such criteria.
Twisty action at the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William

In good weather, the following applies: Exhaust curves. Otherwise, you need sensitivity!

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Group

What does it take to win Fort William?

The suspension at Fort William could probably be the subject of a Ph.D. thesis titled: “The perfect damping balance when you have to decide between filtering bumps and drops and propulsion on compressions and flats.”

So let’s summarize the requirements for the chassis setup: on the one hand, it shouldn’t be set too hard to get the power to the target, on the other hand, it shouldn’t be too soft to get out of corners as fast as possible. possible and without wasting time on flat sections and jumps. That is not easy…

The same can be projected on the tires: enough grip to get through the slippery woods without falling off against a harder rubber compound to cover the rest of the route fast enough.

In the past, it has often been the case that these types of routes have seen tailor-made products, for example to adapt the chassis to the corresponding requirements during the race.

Let’s see if we can discover anything new on the live stream this weekend.

Who can shine like on the cult track?

So what should drivers bring to shine on the iconic Fort Bill Speedway? Reflected assessments of your own strengths and weaknesses are probably essential in deciding the correct choice of chassis material and configuration. So experience could play a role here, putting older drivers out front.

Wire rope ribs, so the change from fast and hard to loose and slippery is done consciously on the run. Adequate physical form, or enough rationality during an adrenaline-charged race, the ability to distribute your strength correctly so that you can drive 100% on the race line to the finish line.

Amaury Pierron, professional downhill mountain biker, at the finish line of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Lourdes, France.

Full house! You have to experience the atmosphere in Lourdes and Fort William

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Group

And all this in front of almost 30,000 spectators along the route and you in front of the TV at home. Which brings us to another special feature, because there are few spectators along the route in France. However, the Scots are more weather resistant, so the number of viewers remains high, even if it rains for a whole week.

The only reason the Scots would leave the field would be the little gnats – nasty little gnats that surround you and bite you in masses that you can’t stand being in the same place for 5 minutes. This is really challenging for riders, because section training and testing key sections quickly becomes a test. Too many stitches also weaken the body of a high performance downhill rider!

Downhill mountain bike pro Amaury Pierron is one of the top contenders for the Fort William podium.

#1 Podium Contender: Amaury Pierron has experience, fitness and 2 FW wins

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Group

I have already raced at Fort William 3 times and it took me some time to gain experience on the track and familiarize myself with the special conditions of the site.

Now though, I’m hanging out with you and giving you my favorites for Sunday’s race:

Let’s cheer together and see who can conquer the legendary field in the high moors of Scotland.

Sunday from 13:25: The women’s downhill final in Fort William live on Red Bull TV

Sunday from 14:45: The Men’s Downhill Final in Fort William live on Red Bull TV

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