Shimano British Downhill Series. Fort William.

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14 May
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Words and photos by Laurence Crossman-Emms

After a number of weeks spent in the southern hemisphere for the first two rounds of the World Cup, it was back to home soil and the second round of the Shimano British Downhill Series. Fort William was the venue and in many people’s minds, was to be a dress rehearsal for the return of the World Cup to the Scottish venue in a few weeks time. With many high-profile names from the World Cup circuit making the trip over, the field was even more stacked than a regular BDS round, which is saying something!

The team have been in good spirits throughout the season thus far, with Manon taking her first Elite World Cup win, Sam coming in with two back to back top-10 World Cup finishes and Matt continuing his fine form from last season in his new team environment.

Fort William Downhill Nationals

With the weatherman pointing in the direction of a wet weekend, the weekend had the potential to be a very challenging one. But after a pretty dry practice session, the pits were buzzing.

Fort William chair lift

Seeding came and Sam’s recent run of form continued with him posting the second fastest time of the day. Matt fell victim to the rocky mountainside and came over the line with a flat, but still managed to post a respectable time. After some technical issues, Manon was unable to put it all together and would be the first Elite down the hill on the Sunday. A mixed bag, but hey, that’s racing!

After a wet evening, race day started out with surprisingly pleasant weather, but alas, as soon as riders hit the hill the rain made a repeat appearance, luckily not for too long – although those famous Fort William midges seemed to enjoy it.

Manon Carpenter- Fort William

Manon was the first of the Elite Women to take to the course come race day after problems in seeding. After a cracking start to her 2014 campaign both at home and aboard, this unusual hiccup didn’t phase Manon and after catching some other riders during her race run, she was still able to manage to post a time that saw her sat in the hot seat for the majority of the session, with only eventual winner, Emmeline Ragot able to go faster; with Manon still a whopping 20 seconds ahead of the third place rider.

Manon Carpenter- Fort William

With two great results at the World Cup and a second place in seeding, Sam Dale was looking to keep up his spectacular momentum on a course that is a firm favourite. A great first sector saw Sam on pace, with a slightly slower second sector combining to give a 6th place finish. A 6th place amongst many of the heavy hitters of the World Cup scene is not something to be dismissed. No doubt Sambo will be looking to better to continue his World Cup form when the circus rolls back into town.

Sam Dale Fort William

After taking second place on the podium at the first BDS round, Matt Simmonds couldn’t quite translate that momentum into the results he wanted in Pietermaritzburg and Cairns. No doubt motivated to put his flat in seeding to bed, Matt was looking focussed come race day. A disappointing first sector saw Matt mid-pack, but a storming second sector took Matt 8 seconds clear of the rest of the field and straight into the hotseat. Rider after rider tried and failed to take Matt out of the hotseat, with eventual winner, Gee Atherton being the only person to end his lengthy stay on the top spot.

Matt Simmonds- Fort William