Fort William is always a big goal in my year as it’s a track that seems to suit me and my riding style and it’s my home World Cup ! Having done the World Cup XC race in Dalby 2 weekends previously and enjoyed the cheers of the home support I was looking forward to Fort William even more. This year was the 10th race at Fort William in as many years and I have fond memories of that race 10 years ago. In 2002 it was my very first world cup win here on home soil, so it’s always been a special race for me. This year was no exception and thankfully the wild Scottish weather we experienced the weekend before that caused the National race to be cancelled just down the road in Glencoe subsided and we were treated to a great weekend of sunshine and dry racing.
I was looking forward to riding in the World Champs jersey here at Fort William but with that comes a little added pressure to perform. However I actually felt pretty relaxed all weekend I think because I was kept busy with media stuff, signing posters at Osprey and generally not having too much time to think about the race !! I was conscious that with so much of the last few months taken up with my XC riding and racing I might be struggling a little this weekend on the long, rough Fort William track.
I therefore took a pretty cautious approach to practice and didn’t do too many practice runs to make sure I still felt strong on Sunday ! Qualifying went good in that I was in 2nd spot about 0.1sec behind Rachel, but I knew I hadn’t ridden well at all, so I went straight up and walked the track. I think my lack of practice meant that I wasn’t that familiar with all the details of the track and I found a few lines that I knew could save me some time on Sunday. Sundays practice went really well and I was feeling alot faster on the course. Finally the race run time came and I had mixed feelings at the top, part of me was hating the nervous wait at the start of yet another world cup and the other part was excited about riding down the course as fast as I knew I was capable of. Fortunately I managed to get a good start and straight away relaxed into my run and really rode loads better than in qualifying. I knew the last pedal section was going to be crucial, so I really dug deep and sprinted hard to the finish.
The crowd seemed quiet when I crested the last steep drop in and I began to think I must be way off on time, but as soon as I crossed the finish line the place erupted !! I guessed I must have gone into the lead ! With just Rach to go the crowd were certain of a home victory, just which one of us was it going to be. With almost identical second splits, it was going to be a close race. Thankfully my bottom section turned out to be a bit faster than Rach’s and I took the win by 1.7secs. WOW…..what an amazing feeling it was to win my 5th world cup here in Fort William. It was just incredible and another memory I will never forget from this race site. It also gave me more valuable points towards the world cup overall, so another great weekend for me and the team as we also won the Team award for the day. Next stop Leogang, Austria.