Report: UCI Mountain Bike World Cup DHI R2 // 4X R3
Gee Atherton has rocked Fort William to produce the first British men's winner at a British World Cup since Steve Peat in 2005. We've got the first results and report and video from Corinne Walder.
Gee Atherton did it! A British winner at the British World Cup was always going to be a crowd-pleaser (and one the dedicated pilgrims have been patiently waiting for), but in front of a capacity crowd and with an outrageously fast final section, Atherton's win was met by a resounding response from the Fort William faithful.
Earlier in the day, Sabrina Jonnier won the women's event making her extra horsepower count in the critical lower section of the course. Despite Rachel Atherton qualifying first and coming close to ensuring a double-win for Britain, her time didn't hold out. Jonnier; certain she made too many mistakes on the all-important race run was in disbelief, but happy none-the-less to take the victory on the day and the lead in the Series.
Jared Graves recorded his second World Cup win of 2010, taking a fourcross race filled with punctures. Graves took two flats in separate rounds and still managed to progress to the finals and win convincingly - securing with it the World Cup Series lead.
It was in stark contrast to the World Championships three years previous, where despite being in the realm of Brian Lopes, Graves had desperate luck in Fort William. Jumping the quad in the semi final with a comfortable lead, Graves' tyre blew and cost him a first legitimate shot at the Rainbow jersey.
As Graves meticulously checked tyre pressure throughout today's practice and racing, it was clear nothing was going to stop him winning the race - certainly not a mechanical. Or even Joost Wichman.
Graves' closest rival may have team strength in advantage - something the RSP trio used to depose the reigning World Champ in Maribor - but on a Fort William course composed of thick dust, sand and exposed rocks there was little safety in numbers.
Graves and Wichman faced little opposition in early rounds, winning easily with a combination of BMX gating and superior handling skills, but as the rounds continued, lane choice from Graves' qualification-winning performance wasn't enough alone to see off the Australian's rivals. First to come close was David Habicht, momentarily leading into turn one, before getting shut down on the inside by his superior. Wichman meanwhile had to send home teammate Jurg Meijer.
In the women's race Jana Horakova took her second win of the series, and with it the overall; with Anita Molcik in second and favourite Anneke Beerten still not having a totally clean race though, the overall is still wide-open at a race which marks halfway in the 2010 Fourcross World Cup.
A long list of British riders come into the race with a genuine chance of getting a win at the most supported round of the downhill World Cup. Every year, over 10,000 fans make the pilgrimage across the Scottish Highlands on one of the all-time classic race venues.
Host of the 2007 World Championships and now an eighth World Cup, Fort William is the home of British downhill. When Steve Peat crossed the line to win in 2005 there were unprecedented celebrations; celebrations that would only be matched four years on when Peat took the World Championship title.
Now returning to race in Britain for the first time in the Rainbow jersey, Peat has to be one of the favourites and would be the most popular home winner.
Also on the list is 2008 World Champion Gee Atherton. Denied the win at the opening round of the downhill World Cup by the smallest of margins, Atherton will be ready to take the win at the Fort.
Gee's sister - Rachel - made the perfect return to racing in Maribor, winning by over ten seconds and with Tracy Moseley also in top form you can't discount a first ever double British win.
In Saturday nights fourcross, Ffion Griffiths starts straight from a win in Maribor, while Dan Atherton, Scott Beaumont and Will Longden prepared at the British Fourcross Series.
We'll be at the Fort, feeding back results, reports, video and photography throughout the weekend, so after the livecast there will be something else to remember the weekend by!