Until 2020, Fort William had hosted an annual UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup or UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Championships race every year since 2002, and for good reason.
The Scottish venue has mythical status around the world with riders and fans and was set in stone from the very first event. The track is carved into the side of one of the tallest mountains in Scotland, Aonach Mor, and the World Cup Downhill Track plummets 555 meters down the slopes of the mountain in just 2.82 km. With its big drop-offs, rock steps, and jumps, it is one of the longest and toughest in the world. It's unrelenting and, at times, treacherous providing some of the most epic views and dramatic racing for the always enormous, roaring crowd.
To conquer Fort William you need your best downhill mountain bike, some serious skill, and determination. Riders often face traditional Scottish summer conditions, AKA four seasons in one day and the infamous Scottish midgie is always around to bother and irritate riders as they prepare.
With the Downhill World Championships being hosted at the famous venue this year we took a look back at some of the most epic runs of all time, enjoy and we'll see you there at Fort Bill in '23.
The GOAT makes it seven
There's arguably not another rider on the planet who knows how to handle Fort William better than Mr Fort William himself, the GOAT, Greg Minnaar. The South African started winning downhill races there in 2004 and has never looked back.
In 2017, some two decades into his World Cup career, Minnaar proved he still had what it takes to win at Fort William and that he could handle the pressure of a daring course and expectant crowd. With a trademark clean and powerful run, Minnaar racked up his record seventh victory at the venue. After winning the World Championships in Val di Sole in 2021 for the fourth time, it would be far from unexpected if he takes the win again in 2023.
Pierron’s return to the top
Amaury Pierron's committed riding and wild celebrations certainly make him a favorite with fans and his ability to smooth out even the roughest of tracks makes him one of the most exciting riders around.
After an astonishing career-first World Cup win at Fort William in 2018, a victory that saw the Frenchman propelled into the limelight and towards a World Cup overall title that year.
Amaury Pierron was left searching for a little something extra in the first moments of 2019 but didn’t take long for Pierron’s sense of speed to come back and he launched into a typically loose run on the edge of probability at Fort William.
Flying into the packed finish area with the clock showing green, Pierron was faster than anyone else, almost giving it too much on the last big jump, nearly going over the handlebars in one of the sketchiest race finishes in memory. Luckily, he clung on and crossed the line for a second straight Fort William win. In 2022 he was back to take the victory again and will be one of the leading contenders for 2023.
Stevie Smith ghost run
World Cup downhill racing endured a dark year in 2016. One of the sport’s brightest stars, Stevie Smith, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident at home in Canada during a break in the World Cup race calendar.
The next scheduled event was Fort William, where many of Smith's friends, competitors, and supporters would gather for the first time to honor his life and grieve the passing of a brilliant peer, competitor, and role model .
The crowd stopped cheering for a few moments to mark the time that Smith was supposed to begin his race run as the Red Bull TV cameras panned across the course looking for an invisible Smith. The crowd cheered as if he had finished his run, showing their appreciation for a man who will never be forgotten at Fort William.
Seagrave's one hander
Tahnée Seagrave's immense talent thrust her to the top step of the Fort William podium in 2018. Seagrave put on a spectacular performance in front of the home crowd to put herself in the history books as one of the UK's downhill’s greatest downhill riders.
She’d even had time to throw a one-hander to the crowd at the Scotland arch, the final big jump into the arena and still finish with a huge margin of victory over Myriam Nicole. The crowd, and Seagrave’s entourage, quite rightly went wild. Again.
The Atherton double
In 2011, Tracy Moseley had been pushed to the line by a certain youngster by the name of Rachel Atherton, who finished less than two seconds behind her in second place. The young Brit was following the lead of the now long-established frontrunner, and Atherton would settle for second again in 2012.
By 2013, Atherton had finished on the podium at seven out of the eight World Cup and World Championships-level races she had competed in at Fort William. It was also to be the year she finally secured her spectacular debut win in front of another Brit, Manon Carpenter.
But it wasn’t just Rachel’s achievement that stood out in this race. Later that day, her brother Gee would show his mettle as he took to the hill and defied all odds by backing up his sister’s win with one of his own. This was also Gee’s second win and fifth podium at Fort William.
Hopefully, this wets your appetite for the World Championships for 2023 and we advise that you get your tickets sooner rather than later. You can register for ticket pre-sale now. Who will add their name to the incredible roll of honor in 2023? Time will tell.