Jasper Jauchs UCI MTB DH World Cup Column: Fort William

Why is it so hard to predict “Fort Bill” favorites? If I could answer that question in one sentence, this version of the column would not exist.

The cult tracks in Fort William, or as the locals like to call it, “Fort Bill”, is one of the oldest routes in the Downhill World Cup. But is it also old-fashioned, or out of fashion? Absolutely no way! If you look at the trends in today’s circuits, you can see the following characteristics: more open, less narrow corners, faster, more artificial. In comparison with the course of the World Cup course, which is laid out in the heights of Scotland, one can say: Fort William was far ahead of its time.

Impressive with high speeds in artificially created rocky fields, which can be seen from a distance for spectators, drivers and track have never grown apart. But why exactly, it is now so difficult to say which drivers have the right competencies for this?

Suspension guru Loic Bruni is literally floating down the rocky fields.

© Red Bull Content Pool

That’s what makes the Fort William course so tough

Let’s stick to the track first before talking about the requirements for drivers and equipment.

With a running time of almost 4.5 minutes, we are at a distance where you can say with certainty that World Cup riders * must also share the forces.

Greg Minnaar, who won the Fort Bill race in 2017, drove the wooden elements in a relaxed sitting position during the first third. The body battery must reach the finish line and if an error occurs in the last part due to lack of strength, it costs more time than a relaxed sitting position at the beginning of the route. Brains are also required to score points on this route.

If you have rationed the power properly and half of the race went well, the next challenge comes. Your heart rate is likely to increase by another 10 beats as soon as you can see the entrance to the forest in the distance.

If the weather in Scotland has been friendly, at least only deal with the normal problems of tight turns in really steep heels filled with ugly roots. If dinner was not eaten the day before, one can still imagine it all with the very slippery soft soap on the tires. The driver’s shift from extremely high speed with plenty of body tension and strength to a relaxed, highly concentrated, safe driving style is an absolute challenge during the adrenaline-filled race.

Downhill mountain biker Loic Bruni rides down a root field at the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup in Fort William.

Mud, roots and steepness make traction difficult in Fort Bill …

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

I could even experience how I got stuck in the mud after a steep fall, which unfortunately ended the race. So if you have mastered the forest without falling and reasonably fast, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

The last part of the route, though less difficult, is no less critical when it comes time. The Motoway has big, long jumps that take and generate a lot of momentum if mastered perfectly. The same, but exactly the opposite if you have a small hanger or are too exposed to the wind on the bike.

Small spoiler: Nina Hofmann showed photos from the wind tunnel on Instagram on May 17, 2022. This clearly underscores the relevance of such criteria.
Snooping action at the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup in Fort William

In good weather, the following applies: push the curves to the extreme. Otherwise you need sensitivity!

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

What does it take to win Fort William?

The suspension at Fort William could probably be a topic for a doctoral dissertation entitled: “The balance act of perfect cushioning when it has to decide between filtering the hard hits and drops and propulsion in compressions and flat sections”.

So let’s summarize the requirements for the chassis settings: on the one hand it must not be set too hard so that the force reaches the target, on the other hand it must not be too soft to get out of corners as quickly as possible and no waste of time on flat sections and hop. It is not easy…

The same can be projected on the tires: enough grip to cross the slippery forest without falling versus a harder rubber compound to cover the rest of the route fast enough.

In the past, it has often happened that custom-made products have been seen on such routes, for example to adapt the chassis to the corresponding requirements during the race.

Let’s see if we can discover something new in the livestream this weekend.

Who can shine how on the cult track?

So what do drivers need to bring with them to shine on the iconic Fort Bill circuit? Reflected assessments of your own strengths and weaknesses are likely to be crucial to deciding on the right choice of material and chassis setup. So experience could play a role here, which would bring the older drivers back to the forefront.

Nerves of steel ropes, so the shift from fast and hard to loose and smooth happens deliberately in the race. Appropriate fitness or enough rationality during an adrenaline-filled race, the ability to portion your strength correctly so you can run 100% raceline to the finish line.

Mountain bike downhill pro Amaury Pierron at the finish line of the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup in Lourdes, France.

Full house! You must experience the atmosphere of Lourdes and Fort William

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

And all that in front of almost 30,000 spectators along the route and you in front of the television at home. Which brings us to another special feature, for there are only so many spectators along the route in France. However, the Scots are more weather-resistant, so the number of spectators remains high, even if it rains a whole week.

The only reason the Scots would leave the field would be the little mosquitoes: ugly little mosquitoes that surround and bite you in such masses that you can not endure the same place for 5 minutes. It is actually a challenge for the riders, for the section training and the assessment of key sections quickly becomes a test. Too many stitches also weaken the body of a high-performance downhiller!

Downhill mountain bike pro Amaury Pierron is a first-class candidate for the Fort William podium.

Podium Candidate # 1: Amaury Pierron has experience, fitness and 2 FW victories

© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

I have already competed in Fort William 3 times and it took me some time to gain experience with the course and to get a handle on the special conditions on site.

Nevertheless, I now hang out with you and give you my favorites for the race on Sunday:

Let’s cheer together and see who can conquer the legendary course in the heights of Scotland.

Sunday from 13.25: The women’s DH final in Fort William live on Red Bull TV

Sunday from 2.45pm: The men’s DH final at Fort William live on Red Bull TV

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