Posted by Editor on 06/5/09
After a three week break, the Gravity events in the Nissan UCI World Cup resume this weekend with the extremely popular Fort William, Scotland round. This will be the fourth event of the 2009 series for both the 4-Cross and Downhill events.
2009 is the eighth year for World Cup competition at 'Fort Bill', on the slopes of Ben Nevis in the Scottish Highlands. Last year, riders and spectators were treated to a surprisingly dry and dusty event, however, there are no guarantees of a repeat with the changeable weather that is a fact of life at this most northern World Cup.
Despite being removed from the nearest major population center (Glasgow) by nearly two hours, Fort William regularly attracts some of the largest and most enthusiastic crowds of the World Cup circuit, with up to 20,000 fans battling the 'midgies' - small, biting bugs that can leave welts that make the unfortunate recipient look like they have a bad case of chickenpox. The midgies this year are bad enough to have forced the cancellation of a scheduled cross-country ride.
Despite the 'midge factor', and a strong chance of rain, the spectators are sure to be out in good numbers. The Brits (and Scots) have lots to be excited about, with their own Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) leading the men's downhill standings, and another Brit - Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) - second in the women's category.
Both Peat and women's downhill series leader Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) are on a tear, at present. Each have won the last two events in their respective series, and hope to extend their leads in Fort William. For Peat, it would be a record fiftieth podium appearance, if he can finish in the top five.
However, their victories are by no means assured. Tracy Moseley and Peat's team mate Greg Minnaar each won at Fort William last year, and are certainly hoping to repeat. Sam Hill (Monster Energy-Specialized) was the fastest in timed training on Friday, and is still looking for that first World Cup win of the season with his new team, so expect him to be very motivated also.
The flu which has been dogging the World Cup circuit continues to hit riders, with Mick Hannah (GT Bikes) currently afflicted. It is unlikely that anyone will have to scratch due to sickness, but it could certainly be a factor in some performances.
Canada has two women - Claire Buchar (Chain Reaction/Intense) and Micayla Gatto - and two men - Steve Smith (Evil Bikes) and Jamie Biluk - in the Downhill. Buchar will be looking to show that she is over the flu that caused her to drop out of the La Bresse (France) round, while Smith will want to build on his strong tenth place in Vallnord (Andorra).
The 2.82 kilometre run is one of the longer ones, requiring fitness for the open pedalling sections at the top, and technique for the slippery, wooded sections lower down. Much of the course is similar to previous editions, with a few changes in the wooded sections (parallel to the old course) just to keep it fresh. Riders are saying that they are happy with the course.
In 4-Cross competition, men's series leader Jared Graves (Yeti Fox Shox) had his first loss in the third round, so he will certainly looking to show that he is still the top rider on the circuit. Dan Atherton (Animal-Commencal) is back in competition after a shoulder injury, and is the local favourite. On the women's side, there have been three winners in three races, so this competition is wide open. Will it be series leader and round one winner Anneke Beerten (Suspension Center), round two winner Jill Kintner (USA), or Britain's Fionn Griffths (Norco World Team), the winner of round three?
Qualifying, held Friday evening, had Kintner - the world champion on this course in 2007 - in front of Beerten, Australia's Caroline Buchanan and current world champion Melissa Buhl (KHS) by nearly two seconds for the women's seeding, while round three winner Joost Wichmann squeaked out a nine-one hundredths of a second win over Roger Rinderknecht (GT Bicycles) and 62-hundredths ahead of Graves for the men, with Dan Atherton fourth at just over a second. This will be a tight race.
The 4-cross circuit is also similar to previous years, with a change to the first corner and some natural rock sections added to increase the speed.
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