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