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The first-ever combined Cycling World Championships brings 13 cycling disciplines to various venues across Scotland this week and next, with our beloved downhill kicking things off in Fort William.
Elite downhill finals are today, Saturday 5 August, and will be broadcast around the world by various methods.
We’ve made some notes about the event below, including where to watch elite finals, how the new-look track is shaping up and who won the junior race on Friday. We might have gone on a few tangents too.
Hope you enjoy scrolling through and checking out the amazing photos by Boris Beyer and Sven Martin.
James and the Misspent Summers team

FACENET: Notes from Fort William World Championships

  • Elite finals are today, Saturday 5 August. There are separate 1h45m training sessions for women and men in the morning, then racing kicks off at 12:30 local time
  • It’s probably a bit late if you’ve also been searching for it all week, but here’s the downhill schedule
  • No semi-final: Worlds has qualifying and finals for all categories, but, unlike the new-look World Cups, there is no semi-final in Fort William
  • 80 elite men and 40 elite women make it through from qualis into finals as noted on p17 of dem rulez. Thing is, only 82 men and 37 women entered the race. There were two DNFs (did not finish) and one DNS (did not start) in men’s; one DNF and four DNS in women’s
  • Conversely, in junior women there were 32 entrants but only 15 planned spaces for finals. Thankfully the UCI made a rule tweak this week to extend that number to 30 spaces due to what they called an ‘unprecedented increase in the number of riders [compared to previous World Championships]’
  • The starting order for finals is the same as it was in qualifying – UCI ranking order (the rider with the most UCI points goes last). Qualifying results do not seed the final start list. Still, riders all had to complete a qualifying run to get into finals
  • But where to watch it? Errr. If you’re in the UK, tune in to the BBC for free (well, TV license and all that) live coverage here. Otherwise, GCN+ is probably your best bet (full country-by-country GCN schedule here)
  • Broadcast rights are explained on p7-8 in this document
  • Elite finals coverage starts at 12:15 local time (13:15 CEST) on BBC and GCN+
  • Alternatively, watch the live timing here
  • And what is mountain biking, anyway? The BBC explains: ‘The Mountain Bike World Championships are a chance to witness the world’s best riders navigating a 20-minute course…’ That’s that sorted, then
continued below…
  • Smooth sailing: The track has had a huge makeover for 2023, with a lot of gravel and dirt imported and clearly a massive effort from the trail team to smooth things out in the typically arm-destroying upper half and to speed things up and beef up the jumps on the lower Motorway. Riders have been loving the changes. Check out the course in these videos
  • If you want to hear more about the track rebuild, you might want to get yourself to the Eastgate Theatre in the Tweed Valley on 8 August to hear a talk from Ronan Taylor about his Fort William course redesign and more. Find out about the evening of trail talk here
  • Conditions check: The track has held up a lot better than many predicted earlier in the week – it was in perfect condition for practice and Friday’s elite qualifying and junior finals and it should stay that way for elite finals
  • Weather check: It’s been favourable all week even if the midge count has been through the roof. There’s, errr, a spot of rain forecast for Saturday afternoon during elite finals – fingers crossed for a fair race
  • Tech check: As per tradition, all the bling is on show for Worlds. Lovely custom paintjobs aside, Mondraker’s latest Summum bike has finally being unveiled, revealing added adjustability (changeable torsion braces and increased geometry tweakage) and new suspension kinematic (the way it moves/works). Is there something new in the Commencal pits too?
  • Dan Roberts explains the speed-grip-support bike setup conundrum: Smoother sections and more supportive turns than previous years mean a faster track. Riders have been able to go stiffer in setup to cope with hitting things faster – they said the track and grip felt great from the start. But as they got progressively faster during practice, the delicate support-traction setup balance came back into play. That’s always been the case here, but this year it’s at higher speeds than ever
  • Seem like Worlds week has flown by? It kind of has. Elite racers have a total of 6h15m practice this week. At Les Gets Worlds in 2022, the elite women had 9h15m and elite men had 9h. This year’s Worlds is closer to World Cups; in Val di Sole 2023, for example, elites got 6h30m total practice time (although the semi-final gives them an extra timed run in WCs)
  • In our last newsletter we asked if FW could match the crowds and chaos of Les Gets Worlds 2022. It’s been a relatively quiet week at the Nevis Range, although there was a decent turnout for junior finals on Friday. Have public ticket sales been limited to 7,000 as rumoured? Tickets not available here
  • Prize money: Elite racers get €5,000 for first place (E-MTB scores the same amount; enduro isn’t a World Championship discipline yet) and juniors get €1,250. Details on p28 of this doc
  • It’s great to see mainstream brands sponsoring our sport. Or is it? Team GB is smothered in big oil logos; the ex-Hazzard Hoofer jump is supported by BigMat; and Lidl has prominent event branding. Class or crass?
more below…
  • A British win this weekend could catapult the sport into the mainstream. But mountain biking’s thriving in the UK already according to this new trail project and job posting which says that 6% of the British public regularly mountain bike
  • Where is the line drawn between Lycra and not-Lycra? There are definitely some kits failing the pinch test. But do we even care? Sam Hill looked pretty cool during his 2007 Fort William Worlds win
  • Talking of 2007, remember Ruaridh Cunningham’s junior gold medal at that race? The Scot’s win was reported far and wide in the national press and put downhill mountain biking in full public view. Cunningham is now the MTB World Series Director of Gravity Sport – downhill’s in safe hands
  • Fort William has been a staple of the international calendar since the first DH World Cup here in 2002. Two decades and 20 events later (including this one), it seems 2023 will be the last time Rare Management organises the race here. But will Fort William be on the calendar in 2024 and beyond? Rumours are rife
  • Rachel Atherton out. Well, she was. The world’s fastest mum, who of course won the first World Cup of the season, dislocated her shoulder in practice on the refreshed Motorway jump section – without even crashing. Ouch! In case you’d somehow removed it from your memory, here’s the gruesome video of her relocating her shoulder from last time she raced Fort William in 2017. Tough as nails. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to see her blocking out the pain to line up for qualifying on Friday
  • Nina Hoffmann, another favourite for the podium, crashed hard in practice, straight over the bars to her head. She got the concussion go-ahead from the docs though and rode qualifying
  • Tahnée Seagrave scored second in qualifying but had this horror crash across the finish line, bending her arm in all sorts of directions on the wooden posts holding up some Lidl banners. Brutal. Hopefully we’ll see her in finals
  • Amaury Pierron won the last three Fort William World Cups in a row. Greg Minnaar won the three before that. Sadly, Pierron is still out of action with his neck injury. Minnaar finished eighth in qualis, 3.2s off the fastest time
  • Nearly 60% of all elite women’s World Cup and World Championship races here have been won by Brits. Atherton and Seagrave are now carrying injuries, but (a) never count them out and (b) you probably want to keep an eye on Harriet Harnden – surely the multi-talented cyclocross-cross country-enduroist turned downhiller is the wildcard of the whole event?
  • Junior finals went off on Friday and it was great to see a good crowd and the racing broadcast live around the world
  • An amazing day for New Zealand, taking all three podium spots in junior women! Erice van Leuven took gold with Poppy Lane and Sacha Earnest in second and third respectively
  • Meanwhile in junior men, first-place qualifier Ryan Pinkerton did not start. Henri Kiefer took the win with what he called a near-perfect run. We think that was the first-ever DH World Champs gold for Germany but let us know if we’re wrong. Bodhi Kuhn and Léo Abella finished second and third – congrats everyone
  • All results (qualifying and finals) here and we’ll have more about the race on our website and in Hurly Burly later
  • Loic Bruni set the fastest lap in elite men qualifying. The five-times elite World Champion looks unstoppable on course and says he’s enjoying the track more than ever
  • Vali Höll absolutely dominated elite women qualifying, with a gap of nearly six seconds to second-place Tahnée Seagrave. Could it be two titles on the trot for Höll after her Les Gets win in 2022?
  • Last bit of pondering: The last time a Fort William elite men’s final was won on anything but 29-inch wheels (front and back) was in 2016. Who’s on full-29 for the main race?
  • Hope you’ve enjoyed reading! Is there anything you’d like to hear about in future newsletters? Let us know by replying to this email – feedback helps us improve
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