Firing up the Fort – 2016 British Downhill Series, Fort William

The British Downhill Series is supposed to be a talent pool for World Cups … But what happens when the World Cup talent just turns up to race the British stuff anyway?

With Danny Hart, Brendan Fairclough, Gee Atherton, Loic Bruni, Rach Atherton, Tahnee Seagrave, Manon Carpenter all on the start list the race was like a hop in a time machine forward to what will go down at the same venue in two weeks time.

Images by Ian Lean

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The annual road trip to Fort William is always something pretty special. After a big trip north you’re treating to big terrain, big views, big weather and a big, big track. If the Fort is kind, it’s one of the greatest weekend’s you’ll have racing in the UK … if she’s not, she can be a real bitch.

At last year’s British Downhill Series, the Fort was not kind. She was a real bitch. We had insane weather, half the track was a write-off and with no working gondola the field was faced with a push up race. Indian DH racer Piyush Chavan knew that better than most after a 6,000 mile trip to the Fort for a mini-downhill.

This year, the Fort proved she’s a fickle beast and was a real beauty. It was blue skies, sunshine, sun tans and yep, no bloody midgies!

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Snow on the mountain, big jumps and blue skies – it’s about as beautiful as Fort William gets. Were Innes Graham on the other side of the lens he’d probably be pretty stoked to take this shot … but with a 17th place in elite he clearly wasn’t doing much sight seeing!

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Joining the list of international talent was Canadian young gun Fin Iles who earned himself fame thanks to Crankworx and the #LetFinIn campaign. With the Lourdes Junior World Cup win in the bag Fin has clearly got his sights set on Fort William… He had to settle for 2nd place this weekend though.

Of course, the sting in Fort William’s tail is that a dry track means a fast track. A fast Fort William loves breaking wheels, bikes and bodies … as Gus Meldrum here found out!

Gus somehow managed to roll this one out and still score 10th place in his race run. Hard as nails!

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An incredible thing about our sport is that you can race on any given weekend and rub shoulders with the very best in the game.

Here’s current World Champion Loic Bruni dropping in up top and on his way to 3rd place. Loic had a tough qualifier, ending up 46th … but clawed it back for finals.

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Despite seeding 10th, a mechanical left Columbian Marcelo Gutierrez disappointed and down in 44th place. Better now than at the World Cup … And that’s exactly what Marcelo and the rest of the elite field were here to do. Break stuff, learn and shake out the kinks for the main event.

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Rachel Atherton sponsors the Junior women’s category and is doing a great job of building young female talent. The next step in story is this pinner, Milles Johnset from Norway.

For 2016 Milles will ride for the Atherton Academy “a dream come true” as she describes it. She celebrated by smoking the field by an Chausson-esque 16 seconds!

Follow her on Insta right here.

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Remi Thirion – one of our favourite riders and an absolute freight train on track. With a 10th place in the tank from Cairns, Remi sent out a 4th place in finals and went fastest through the speed trap. Interestingly, Remi had a shocker of a seeding run taking a 48th place.

eSilex

Amongst the racing was Steve Smith. Where ever you raced this weekend there was a tribute for downhill’s lost hero. The British Downhill Series paid tribute with a noisy, petrol fueled celebration of Chainsaw’s life. #longlivechainsaw #longlivestevesmith

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Ben High Tower Cathro – big man, big air! Cathro knows Fort Bill like the bag of his massive hand, after all he’s been racing here since he was a Juvey way back in 2002! 14th place for Cathro!

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Where would the BDS be without these guys? The marshals. The sports-fans that keep the racers safe, keep the track running clear and keep the races happening. They get a packed lunch and a modest payment … but really, it’s all about the love of downhill. Cheers guys!

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Tahnee Seagrave. She’s fast, she’s cool, she’s stylish and there’s absolutely no doubt that she’s World Class. Now all she needs to do is consistently upset two other riders … 3rd in seeding and 3rd in her race run. We’re looking forward to seeing her form from Cairns at Fort William World Cup.

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Jesus Christ … Matt Walker is unstoppable. He’s literally the rider that every youth, juvenile and junior aims to beat. He put 2 seconds into Fin Illes and 4 seconds into Charlie Hatton to take the Junior win – that’s 26th overall in a seriously heavy weight field.

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Gee Atherton won the BDS push-up race here last year … but landed a disappointing 4th place at the subsequent World Cup. He’s a rider that has mixed luck at the Fort with just a small collection of top-spots to his name from the Ben. This weekend was another near-miss with a 2nd place by almost 2 seconds.

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And another rider that had to settle for second place… Manon Carpenter.

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Dominant. Rachel Atherton. With a 7 second gap over 2nd place Manon Carpenter Rachel is clearly on form and set for another season-of-her-life. She won Lourdes, show won Cairns and there’s a bloody good chance she’ll win Fort Bill. Again.

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Brendan Fairclough. Nah, he didn’t win but we can’t have a photo story without him right?

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And your elite men’s winner – Danny Hart. This kid knows every root and rock on Fort William. Some riders survive Fort William, some riders can go fast down Fort William.

Danny just rides the living shit out of it! 1.7 up on Gee Atherton for Danny Boy and a great follow up to his 3rd at Lourdes.

Thanks to Ian Lean for the amazing images once again – he’s on the hill all weekend long shooting the action in all conditions and all weathers, then races home to deepest Cornwall to get the goods edited up. Cheers Ian you grafter!