As Cath and I had never ridden Fort William we decided to go for it and signed up for Round 6 of SDA.
After a rather eventful start to our road trip involving moving a sofa for my mum, a flat tyre, my van breaking down and rental car we arrived in town and met with Andy Cody of NX2.
All of us sat down with a pint and we speculated on the race weekend’s events to come. Getting to the site we were full of nerves and excitement, on the gondola we headed up the mountain watching other riders come down through the motorway, doubt of my ability to ride the track at began to creep in. As we moved across the middle wooded section we were treated to snippets of the track all looking tight and fast. Continuing up the mountain we came to the infamous top section and it looked as fast and technical as it did watching it on TV.
My doubt of being able the track had gone from creeping to full scale disbelief!!! Practice went better than expected and we studied other racers lines and slowly put together our own. Only managing 4 runs total my body was ruined and wasn’t even able to put a full run together. Warnings of the tracks length had not been exaggerated and it was tough, putting a decent race run down felt impossible.
Race day began with nerves that I had never felt before but we pushed on and were on the track for practice. Only managing 2 runs both of these resulted in many stops and lots of reassessing lines as the woods had been pulled apart and a last minute track walk the evening before had revealed yet more lines to be had.
My 1st race run consisted of far too much braking, squaring off corners and then some more braking. I had to take several rests (not stationary of course) through the woods just get some feeling back in my arms, this was proven by a very close call mashing my head over the bars in the woods off the side of the boardwalk to flat. Coming into the motor way I pedalled as hard as could to make up for my mistakes I managed a time of 6.24.
My second run I was totally drained, stood at the top I ran through my critical lines I needed to make and rest points were going to be minimal. I dropped in and went for it pedalling at every opportunity I smashed into the rough stuff but had lost all energy by the dear gate, so having to dial it in I regained some energy for the woods and motorway. Through possibly my favourite part of the track I went into the speed trap clocking about 45kph into hip/transfer slightly over shooting it I was in the loose stuff at full pace. Regaining grip I pushed through the motorway and dropping into the elevator I was greeted with screams of “DON’T BRAKE” from the side lines, I flew in the finish with possibly the biggest grin ever!!! My final time was 6:19 and with it being my first time at Fort William I was definitely pleased with that.
The absolute highlight to the weekend was traveling up in the gondola and watching my wife Cath pin it down the mountain, what a buzz that was! Sadly Cath’s runs did not go so well and her second run she ripped her mech off taking her chance to make up for a steady 1st run but again we both walked away happy that we had just ridden Fort William. Bad luck to Andy for his crash in his 1st run and shredding his hand on the rocks, gutted bud you were flying.
Cheers to all the lads at We love mountains and Cycopath for making it a cracking weekend. And of course TRG and our sponsors.
Watch one of Bens practice runs here
well here it is, hot of the press….Ben Tilfords SDA rd1 race report:
Having ridden Innerleithen 3 years ago and being one of our first real introductions to downhill we were keen to get to race here. We booked on this 1st round of SDA a month in advance to avoid weather watching and choosing whether to race or not. We got lucky and the snow cleared, the winds stayed down and the sun came out. The first thing we all noticed is that none of the faces were familiar, being so used to social scene this side of the border it was a little strange.
The track to be used was a mix of several that mixed it up a bit. The top was sloppy and flat over the fire road into a fast jumpy section. Out of this lead into a total pedal fest… sigh… back into the woods and then jumping out onto the fire road into a series of deep ruts. Now halfway into the track we entered back into the woods where it got interesting, nice and steep with multiple lines and then into open for a one last tricky corner through the gully and into the infamous finishing area.
Inners is a proper DH venue and the tracks all look amazing but sadly the uplift was shocking, taking about an hour to get to the top including the massive pedal along the road to the pickup point and a monster push to the start hut. This sadly meant we only got 4 practice runs on the Saturday and 1 practice on race day. This just wasn’t enough time for me to warm up on race day and dial every line in. I came down from each race run disappointed about mistakes and not having the fitness to power through the pedal section.
The SDA event its self was really well organised and the friendly but was definitely an atmosphere of a serious race. Cath, Liam and I all left the race feeling we need to work on fitness but felt positive about the weekend. Personally I can’t wait for the next race, another new venue for us at Caersws and the rest of the team are all at the 1st round of the BDS next week
Round 2 of the sda was at glencoe a place where id been before so i was looking forward to it. First thing saturday morning i walked the track with Jamie Bambi Scott to find it was the red run which i didnt know what ro think we saw some interesting lines and were exited for the day ahead.The first run came around and the track started at the same place as the black route but then there was a long flat straight which wasnt too exiting. The track thenwent through a high speed rock garden through a few corners and then a sprint to the finish.The uplift had small ques and didnt stop throughout the day which meant 10 runs were easily achueveable.sunday came around and the track had changed overnight it had turned into a horrible muddy slogat the top but the rest of the track was really grippy anf fun.
1st race run came around and the hill was covered in fog ,i crashed near the bottom and jamie got a punchture. 2nd run was just plain slow for me and jamie had a crash so we,d both had better races but were looking forward to innerleithen next week.