THE CROWDS WERE EVEN WILDER THAN THE WEATHER AT THE 2022 FORT WILLIAM WORLD CUP.
Tens of thousands of fans queued in the pissing rain, hiked up and down the track – in the pissing rain – and made so much noise (in the pissing rain) you could hear it miles away. The atmosphere was magic, undamped by the persistent weather.
Each rider punched a racer-shaped hole in the whirling rain up top before dropping into the savage new woods section and then expending every joule of energy through the pedal-tuck-pedal of the motorway section.
High numbers on the Squelch-O-Meter meant big holes, and new sections turned into chasm-like ruts. Thankfully, grit-based terrain gave everyone some grip tokens; the track’s endless slabs and boulders provided a mostly reliable surface – except in a few danger spots that spat riders off their bikes.
Grip or no grip, one of the biggest challenges of the race was keeping vision clear from top to bottom – even for superhuman World Cup racers, mud and rain and midges on your goggles is never a good look.
But it didn’t seem to slow anyone down – it was a wet and wild return to racing at Fort William after a hiatus since 2019 that provided thrills and spills throughout the event.
Healing vibes to everyone who came a cropper on this most unforgiving of mountains. And congrats to the weekend’s big winners.
Enjoy the fantastic photos and interviews below by Sven Martin, Boris Beyer and Sebastian Schieck (intro by Dave Jaquin). If you enjoy this, be sure to check out LourdesZine and Hurly Burly, our downhill yearbook. Thanks for your support.
ABOVE LEFT: Race prep with Mille Johnset. – Sven
ABOVE: Just another race weekend in Fort William. Except this time there were probably more fans than ever before. Seemed it, anyway. – Seb
LEFT: Whoever you want to win, whatever you want the weather to do, Fort William has a unique vibe that only gets better as the weekend goes on. The horns get louder, the mini cowbells go bonkers and the fans, oh the fans, make this place sing. – Seb
ABOVE: Camille Balanche’s upward trajectory just keeps… well, going upward. The Swiss rider qualified fastest for the first time in her career; starting finals as the last rider down brings extra pressure, but Camille handled it perfectly. Another solid podium. – Boris
TOP: Benoit Coulanges goes from strength to strength. The modest Frenchman has been quietly improving his trade in the decade he’s been racing World Cups. Two podiums in as many races is an impressive start to 2022. – Sven
ABOVE: Myriam Nicole suffered a concussion at round one in Lourdes, France (she still raced), sidelining her from pretty much any activity since that race. But Pompon hasn’t lost any speed – she finished third in the Fort. Should there be an official UCI protocol for concussions, though? – Boris
TOP LEFT: Greg Minnaar and friends enjoy a can of ‘Mountain Goat’, Minnaar’s new signature beer. Drink responsibly. – Sven
ABOVE: Phoebe Gale (r) shooting the breeze with Mille Johnset. The open top section of track was wild in the wind. – Sven
LEFT: Forest of Dean Finest! Charlie Hatton put in a superb qualifier, proving his talent and doing his Atherton Bikes team proud. Hatton finished a commendable 15th in finals. – Seb
TOP: Luca Shaw qualified a solid ninth but had some issues with a slippery take-off in finals, coming a cropper on the relatively straightforward (compared to the rocks everywhere else!) Oakley wall-ride jump. Was he going for a tear-off? – Boris
MIDDLE: Gotta-get-content. First person to name the rider, camera and photographer gets 10 points. – Sven
ABOVE: Junior women’s racing is full of bright hopefuls. Phoebe Gale, for one, is one of the most exciting up-and-comers in years. Second place for Gale. – Sven
ABOVE: Just wow. Any follower of downhill knows Nina Hoffmann has crazy speed and motivation. Sometimes her motivation gets the better of her; when it all goes right, apparently, she is a force to be reckoned with. After puncturing in qualis, the German put in a storming finals run to win the race by a massive 3.6s. Congrats, Nina! – Sven
TOP: Jackson Goldstone put in a ludicrous qualifying time that would have seen him fourth in elite men. But – and it’s a big one – he has some serious competition in juniors. Second in finals for Goldstone, just behind Jordan Williams. – Sven
ABOVE: Lightspeed. When Amaury Pierron is ON – and he certainly was here – he is unstoppable. Despite two horrible years with serious injury, Pierron is clearly back with every bit of speed intact. Two wins in a row in 2022, and Pierron’s third consecutive Fort William win. – Seb
TOP LEFT: Jordan Williams makes the UK proud! Williams and Jackson Goldstone are pushing the limits in junior men’s. Williams snuck into the top times of the weekend with his winning finals run. The next generation is here. – Sven
ABOVE: Thibaut Dapréla couldn’t have looked happier for his teammate’s win, even though it would otherwise have been his. Quality sportsmanship and true downhill spirit right there. – Seb
LEFT: Canada’s Gracey Hemstreet taking her second junior women’s World Cup race in a row. Hemstreet won by nearly three seconds. – Sven
BELOW LEFT: One very happy Frenchman. Bravo Momo. – Sven
BELOW RIGHT: Nina Hoffmann with potentially the most enthusiastic celebration ever – and rightly so. What a run. – Seb
FOUNDER-DIRECTOR: James McKnight
CO-DIRECTOR: Ben Winder
CHAIRMAN: Mike Rose
SOUND SCIENTIST: Victor Lucas
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Chris Jones
DOOD OF DOODLES: Jon Gregory
Anna Buick, Chris Hall, Pete Scullion, Ric McLaughlin, Paul Aston, Chris Kilmurray, John Parkin, Chris Jackson, Pedro Ballin, Alan
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