What a weekend of downhill we've just been treated to in the Scottish Highlands – here are a few curios we noticed
**Spoiler alert** If you haven’t watched the racing and don’t want to know the result, click away now. If you want to know how to watch the World Champs this year, check out this article.
1 Did Laurie Greenland’s outside line before the motorway cost him the win? Ben Cathro’s excellent Pinkbike story of the race video singled out one corner on the track that caught out a lot of riders in the men’s race. As the rain continued to hammer the track, previously hardpack berms started to soften and break up, with ruts and braking bumps tearing up the surface. One such corner was just after the little wall ride on a section of track that leads to a flat/uphill before the crucial motorway. Any loss of speed here really hurts as there’s no gravity to help riders back up to speed. It’s the same corner that claimed Matt Walker while on a heater of a run, with a horrific looking crash that sent his bike wide and into the creek, while his body slammed straight into the deck. Urgh. There were two main lines here during the rain-soaked race; an inside that looked more difficult and potentially needed a speed check on entry, or an outside around the berm and through the deep, soft soil and running the gauntlet of a deep rut. We’ve replayed the race and compared the times between Charlie Hatton and Laurie Greenland through that key section, from just before the berm to the end of the short sprint out the other side. Charlie Hatton comes into the section hugging the tape on rider’s right (to reduce the radius of the turn) at 3:34.0. He exits the section over a little jump in the trees at 3:40.6. Total time 6.6 seconds. Laurie takes a line slightly left of Charlie and enters the section at 3:34.9. He exits the section 3:42.2. Total time 7.3 seconds. So in that short section, Laurie gave away 0.7 seconds to Charlie, to add to his original 0.9 deficit, making 1.6 seconds behind in total. If we extend the section to the hip jump leading into the motorway, CH hits that at 3:54.4, while LG hits it at 3:55.5. So 1.1 seconds difference. From the flat pedal to the hip jump, Laurie actually made back 0.5. In sector 4, CH narrowly edged LG by a tenth of a second, extending that lead. So even if the time gap was kept consistent through that key berm, and Laurie clawed back 0.5 on the run in to the motorway, Laurie would still have been between 0.4 and 0.5 seconds back at the line.
2 The added sound effects to the live coverage made every bike sound like a bag of spanners. This was again pointed out by Ben Cathro, but we noticed it throughout the coverage. The producers had added in the noise of an old 2001 freeride bike smashing a huck-to-flat whenever a rider landed a jump, no matter how smoothly the were riding. When teams and mechanics spend so long making their race bikes smooth and silent, this must have felt like a right kick in the teeth, as well as making the top riders in the world sound like a bunch of amateurs. Imagine F1 coverage where they added the sound of tyres squealing and gear changes being crunched. No, just no. Don’t do it.
3 Fort William continues to product great racing. Was this ever in doubt? Probably not, but the racing this weekend just underlined how special this track is, with its combination of length and roughness, with that critical motorway section at the end, always puts the cat among the pigeons. And the fact that racers were able to overcome the deteriorating conditions to go faster was amazing. On most courses it would have been game over with that amount of rain falling through the finals, and we would have had the unfortunate situation where the weather decided the results. Let’s hope there will be more international racing at Fort William next year. Oh, and a big hat tip to the course builders who did an amazing job botoxing the haggard old Nevis Range track. They made it look ten years younger.
4 Brutal crashes and injuries didn’t stop the women. First there was Rachel Atherton, who dislocated her shoulder on the motorway section during practice, but put it back into place and raced the next day. Amazing. You could see she was nursing it in finals – what could have been? Tahnee Seagrave took a very close look at the Lidl hoardings at the finish line barriers in qualifying. It was a scary looking crash and definitely battered her, but she obviously found some extra resilience in the middle aisle because she took to the start line on Saturday and still managed an impressive 6th place. Finally we have Nina Hoffman nursing a knee injury that’s been hampering her for most of the year. She also took a nasty fall to her head in practice. But she also raced, laid down the fastest first split and was in fourth when she got slightly off line over the road gap, went through a hideous hole and lost the back wheel around a berm.
5 Someone raced on a Forestal e-bike! If you watched the whole of the men’s race, you may have spotted Alex Iscla Grandvallet from Andorra racing on a Forestal e-bike. What?!! Yes, that’s what we thought. How did he get it past the scrutineers? And if he’d disabled the motor, maybe by taking the battery out, why would he race on an e-bike when the motor adds drag and weight? The only thing we could think of was that he’d had an issue with his bike and had to borrow one. Well, thanks to Neil Cousins from Forestal’s UK Distributor, Silverfish-UK, we received some pics of Alex’s bike. It’s the longer travel Forestal Siryon model with 170mm of travel, and Alex has taken the motor out and fitted a cradle to hold a standard BB and cranks. Creative genius or mad inventor? Your guess is as good as ours.
6 Oi Oi on the Beeb! Yep, Ben Deakin managed to get himself on the live feed. Who else spotted him?