Fort William, Scotland, hosted round three of the Rocky Roads UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup last weekend with Lewis Buchanan performing well taking 23rd place, Matti in 37th and Al Bond in 72nd.
The Fort William round is always the premier World Cup event of the year, with the track on Aonach Mor providing one of the most demanding tests for riders and bikes alike. Added to that, the crowd and atmosphere is second to none – so this is one event that holds an extra special incentive for riders to do well at.
Team Manager Nigel Page takes us through the weekend's action, which includes the results of the 4X Pro Tour: "This was the 11th consecutive year the race has been held and Rare Management always put on a fantastic event. The track builders had done a great job of getting the track ready and the new huge jumps down on the final motorway section of the track were a fantastic improvement for the riders and the thousands of fans that came to support the race.
Friday timed practice went well with Joe Smith posting a great run, showing he meant business and was up for it this weekend.
Saturday came around and the good weather held out making the track really dry and dusty. All the team qualified through to Sunday's final, so that's always a relief as these days the times are so close and with well over 200 riders trying to make the top 80, you have to have a clean fast run to make it. Matt Simmonds and Joe Smith qualified in 14th and 15th so that was the best to-date for the team in a while.
Fourth round of the 4X Pro Tour
The fourth round of the 4X Pro Tour took place on Saturday night in front of a huge crowd. Lukas and Michael Mechura qualified well in eighth and ninth, but had bad luck in the knock out rounds. Lukas was taken out in his second round whilst in a qualifying position going down hard and destroying his front wheel in the process. His younger brother Michael had it through to the quarter finals and was looking strong but unfortunately crashed hard in the rock garden whilst in second place, ending his hopes for a place in the final!
Current 4X World Champion and BMX legend Michael Prokop took the win in an exciting final over Petnik Bruckner in second, Joost Wichman in third and Tomas Slavik fourth.
Downhill race day at the Fort
Eventually the weather broke and the rain came down during Saturday night and Sunday morning dampening down the dust on the downhill track and making the wooded section very wet and muddy.
Joe Smith and Matt Simmonds rode amazingly in front of the home crowd and both gained career best results to date – Joe in seventh and Matt ninth. Two of our riders in the top 10 in the world is absolutely amazing. Well done guys! We all knew they had the speed and talent and it has finally happened.
Joe emerges from the mist at the top end of the track
Joe Smith blasting down the final section of the course
Joe takes to the hot seat after his run of 4:55.148
This moves Matt and Joe up to 17th and 19th, respectively, in the overall men's standings. Hopefully this will give them and the whole team a huge boost of confidence that we can mix it with the fastest riders in the world.
Matt pinning it at the top section of the Aonach Mor course
Lewis Buchanan had a great ride posting a fantastic time and finishing 23rd for the day. A great result for young Lewis and this should give him a huge confidence boost going into the next two rounds in Canada and the USA.
Lewis Buchanan blasts over one of the many rock gardens
Styling it up at the end of his run
Matti Lehikoinen had a fantastic ride finishing in 37th and moving up the ranks a lot faster than you would think possible after his injury comeback. Well done Matti!
Matti Lehikoinen was pleased with his 37th position
Al Bond, who was suffering from arm pump on the long rough track, gave it his all and after a good first split in 26th he unfortunately had a huge crash further on down the track. Al finished the race in 72nd position, but just making it through to the top 80 was a good result.
Al Bond takes on a corner at the top of the course
It was a great final for the men's race with the crowd going mental and getting behind all the riders, especially the Brits. The phenomenal American rider Aaron Gwin posted an early fast time. He had crashed in qualifying so was down earlier than usual in the final. His time held out right to the end in a close race, where current downhill World Champion Danny Hart gave it his all with the crowd going crazy, narrowly missing out on the win by 0.8 of a second. Gee Atherton took third, a back-to-form Sam Hill in fourth and the UK's Josh 'Rat Boy' Bryceland in fifth.
Six of the top 10 men were British, which just shows how strong we are in downhill.
Joe and Matt were only two seconds off a World Cup men's podium which is just amazing. Also congratulations to young Scottish Nukeproof rider Greg Williamson who finished in 17th! Added to that, there were four Nukeproof Scalp bikes in the top 23 in the men's race which was pretty amazing in only our second year.
We leave next week for the next two rounds in Canada and the USA where we hope to continue this great form and get closer to that men's podium.
Carl Lottering-Geeson attends to Lewis's bike before the final run of the day – Fort William's brutal course takes its toll on the bikes…and riders!
Thanks to all our sponsors for their support which makes it all possible, and a big special thanks to team mechanics Brooks and Carl for working flat out keeping seven bikes going and Mavic for keeping our wheels spinning true all weekend."