Grind it out! Charlie Hatton’s Fort William World Cup

Charlie Hatton just did his 2nd ever World Cup downhill race … and he came 10th!

“Your legs are on fire and heart rate is near maxed. You just have to grind it out!”

words by Charlie // photos by Ian Lean

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After the drive to Fort William we were greeted with heavy rain and strong winds. Wednesday saw a quick bit of sunshine so me and a few of the Wideopenmag boys went to Laggan Wolftrax for a spin which was pretty cool! The trail has loads of rocks and a big, steep Moab style slab which was fun to jump into!

We got up to Fort William for Thursday and had a walk of the track. It looked in good condition but we knew that with bad weather on the horizon that was going to change fast. Practice on Friday went well. I had no mechanicals or crashes. I only did 4 runs to try and save my body because it’s a rough old ride! I went home happy.

Saturday was meant to be qualification day and we turned up bright and early and ready to ride. We spent the morning waiting and watching the rain … and eventually we were told “no racing today”. That gave me some more time to prepare. I got my bike ready with mechanic Chaz, got my goggles prepped with tear offs and got a lens attached to my peak (cheers for the tip Rich!) then chilled out for the rest of the day.

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Sunday practice started at 6:30 in the morning. Riding down a mountain half asleep at 6am isn’t that great but had to be done. Going into qualifying I felt good. Mechanic Chaz and coach Rich came to the top of the mountain with me and we did a solid warm up on the turbo.

I crossed the beam feeling good. It was all going well until the woods when I went over the bars. My gloves were covered in mud I thought there was no chance I would qualify. Luckily I came down into 18th with only two riders to go so I made it.

With everything moved forward into Sunday I didn’t have much time to spare. You normally do qualie Saturday and race Sunday at a World Cup … but we were doing both in one day. I crossed the line, had some food, swapped into some fresh Fox kit and got straight back up. Once again Rich and Chaz came up for the warm up.

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It was freezing at the top so I left my coat on as late as possible so off the line I was warm. Deep breaths, 5 seconds, beeps, sprint out the gate. As Fort Bill is such a long track you have to ride smooth else there’s no chance you’ll be making those bottom motorway jumps! The top few turns I didn’t go flat out I just wanted to ease into the run. After the flat top turns you’re fired straight into the rocks. It’s so easy to go flat out into sections and come out with no speed, so flow was key.

I got the rocks done, breathing was all good and surprisingly no arm pump. After crashing in quali I was shitting it going into the woods. I got there and it was a mess. Bog, massive ruts, loads of roots. I think I was going slower than walking pace just to stay on. It was a huge relief getting through with no major problems.

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From the woods onwards you can pin it, well try to, your legs are on fire and heart rate is near maxed. You just have to grind it out!  There’s a turn just before the big motorway jumps which Rich told me to death grip so I couldn’t touch the brakes. This clearly worked as I was second through the speed trap! More speed meant the jumps were easier to clear.

Sailing over the last jumps was sick knowing one final push and the finish line was near. The crowd at the bottom was insane! Crossing the line with a good run was an awesome feeling! I came down into 2nd place, rider after rider came down outside the time. I ended up 10th, for my second World Cup I was so stoked with that!

Huge thanks to mechanic Chaz and Rich Thomas for all the help with the bike and knowledge, I learnt a lot! Jamie And Jim from Wideopenmag for everything. Ian lean for some sick photos. Lots of positives to be taken away! Also big thanks to mum and dad.

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Good luck for Leogang Charlie mate!

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