The biggest event of the year on our calendar, and for most UK mountain bike fans too, the Fort William World Cup never fails to leave us buzzing. This year we hit the Highlands full on, with a packed stand all weekend, as you guys flocked to buy limited edition T-shirts and water bottles and grab a signature or two from some of the top riders. Here are our highlights from the 2017 event…
1. The fans There’s no doubt about it, Fort William is a Mecca for UK mountain bike fans. Making the pilgrimage from far and wide, this World Cup staple wouldn’t be the same without the crowds. They’re famous for creating the electric and addictive atmosphere we’ve all come to love.
2. The trackAs one of the most-visited venues on the World Cup circuit, the Fort Bill track is an absolute classic. It offers everything from flat-out rocky sections to slow, boggy technical parts, with a few massive jumps thrown in for good measure. Because of the lack of trees it’s pretty spectator friendly too. Make sure you’re hill-side when the world’s best hurtle past!
3. The midgies What would Fort William be without the midgies? Well, in all honesty, probably a bit more bearable! Negativity aside, the midgies are a good gauge for how much fun (or trouble) you’ve been in over the weekend. If you’re not red raw and scratching for weeks following a weekend of racing or spectating, you’re either way too prepared or haven’t got wild enough!
4. The weatherYou can rely on the weather gods of the Scottish Highlands to put on one hell of a show. If you’re looking for four seasons in four minutes, Fort Bill will deliver. We’ve seen snow, hail, rain, wind and sun work their magic on the track, and some riders testify that it runs better when it’s wet. But one thing’s for sure – if the weather is varied you’re going to get some good racing!
5. The pitsThe pits at Fort William are a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of your hero or partake in some much-needed retail therapy. You can also drool over all of the latest and greatest kit. Oh, and make sure you check out the MBUK stand for some exclusive Fort Bill merchandise and if you’re really lucky, you might get the chance to speak to Jimmer!
6. The town Fort William town centre transforms into a bustling and lively place to have a good night. If you’re not up for a lairy one, maybe it would be a good idea to stay at home, because the Fort William parties can get pretty wild! Places to check out are The Grog & Gruel, The Maryburgh Inn and The Crofter if you’re after a boozy night. Just watch out for the friendly locals!
7. The racersPutting their reputations, safety and titles on the line, the racers make Fort William a special place to be. No matter who you’re rooting for, there are going to be surprises and great shows of exceptional riding. The crowds always show their appreciation for the competitors, and the roars of applause in the finish line are deafening.
8. The gondolaAs a special treat for people from the UK, Fort William is one of the few events with a ski lift. The gondola passes directly above the track so is prime for viewing riders hitting up the hill. When you’re at the top you get incredible vistas of mountains and lochs, and it’s certainly something that shouldn’t be missed!
If you’d like to find out about what goes on behind the scenes at a World Cup, then grab a copy of MBUK 345 to get an access-all-areas report from Fort William. Get the latest issue here.
Features Editor Alex calls the mellow rolling hills of Dorset home, but before he started on MBUK, he lived in The French Alpine town of Morzine for seven years. Here he developed a scary ability to make the steepest and gnarliest trails look like a walk in the park. Occasionally his speed caught up with him, resulting in several bone crunching crashes at World Cup downhill level. Since hanging up his racing shoes Al regularly clocks up a massive weekly mileage on his trail bike, so is one of our hardiest testers.