Rachel Atherton laid to rest any remaining Fort William demons after claiming a stunning second victory of this year’s HSBC UK | National Downhill Series.
The four-time world champion had not competed in Scotland since breaking her collarbone, in Cairns, last year, but continued her near-perfect comeback with success in the second round of the series.
That followed success in Cwmcarn last month but, more importantly for Atherton, saw her increase the feeling of being back to her old self on the bike - at the same venue where she dislocated her shoulder last year.
Meanwhile there was also success for Danny Hart in the men’s competition, overcoming a slip in qualifying to take top spot on the podium come race day - taking his place as series leader in the process.
Atherton responds to Seagrave challenge
Strong winds on Friday had seen most unable to get early practice in but, by the time the weekend came around, that became a thing of the past.
As qualifying ensued, Atherton was not the one flying highest in the new conditions, forced to pull over and allowing Tahnee Seagrave to pass her.
That saw Seagrave build a substantial gap to the field but Atherton came back with gusto, delivering the goods come race day by taking the elite women’s win.
Katy Curd showed she was well and truly back to her old self by taking third place while fourth went to
“I’m so relieved and so happy, Fort William is such a gnarly track and every time you wonder about just getting down the track,” said Atherton.
“They’ve been working really hard on my bike, working on the suspension to get me feeling how I used to feel and they’ve managed it.
“It was a mint run, the bike was mint and I felt like last year again before I crashed."
Hart rallies as Breeden returns in style
Disappointment in qualifying to success in the race continued into the men’s event as Hart bounced back from his earlier set back to take elite honours.
A spill in qualification had put the double world champion back in sixth place but he recovered excellent to take top spot in Fort William when it mattered most.
The home fans also had plenty of local success to cheer about, notably through Greg Williamson and Reece Wilson, the former putting in a valiant ride to finish second ahead of Faustin Figaret.
Joe Breeden, returning after a long lay-off from serious knee and ankle injuries, rallied to fourth – despite the first-year elite rider having just one solid week on the bike.
Hart said: "I’m over the moon to take the win here in what turned out to be a dry and sunny weekend.
“I had a couple of problems here and there on track, made a mistake on my qualifying run in the new wood section which put me back in sixth.
“I knew I had it in me and I carried good speed all weekend so, after putting in a solid finals run, to take the win was amazing.
“It’s given me some good momentum which I’ll carry on to the World Cup here in three weeks’ time."
1. Danny Hart
2. Greg Williamson
3. Faustin Figaret
4. Joe Breeden
5. Remi Thirion
1. Rachel Atherton
2. Tahnee Seagrave
3. Katy Curd
4. Carina Cappellari
5. Aston Tutt