The DH course in detail
The Fort William DH course is anything but a walk in the park. Car sized boulders litter the course, rock gardens that strike fear into the hearts of the riders and super fast flat out sections that require a high fear factor, it’s an unbelievably demanding course.
The course drops a total of 525m from the Gondola station and threads its way first across the torturous rocky open top section, before dropping steeply into the cover of trees, before the riders pop out 2.7km later into the large finish arena.
For spectators there’s a wealth of good viewing points, and it’s one of the best tracks for getting lots of spectating for your effort. With gondola access to the top of the hill, you can check out the full-bore rocky corners higher up. If you hike up from the bottom, from about half way up you can just about see the riders race the entire top section.
Further down, there’s equally good vantage points in lower section where the course dives into the trees, but you’ll need to stake out a good point earlier on. Our tip is to walk a good way up the course, then time your descent down to the finish to coincide with the last riders down the hill – time it right and you should, hopefully, get to watch a British rider drop into the finish arena victorious. Following which some 20,000 spectators erupt.
The current course record is 4 minutes 43 seconds.
Here’s a slice of action from last years race, which gives you an idea of what the course layout is like.
The 4X course in detail
The 4X course pits four riders against each other with just two riders going through to the next heat, continuing until there are just four riders remaining. It promises fast, frantic and exciting racing, with bashes and locked elbows assured and crashes common place.
And the designers of the 4X course at Fort William make the most of this, creating a crowd pleasing layout that offers plenty of vantage points of a good portion of the course. Improvisation is often the way forward, so don’t be surprised when some start climbing the surrounding trees! To get a good spot for the evenings race, aim to get to your desired viewing point as early as possible and lay claim to it.
The course has been lengthened with a “major realignment of the middle section of the course” which should increase the speed, height of jumps and overtaking opportunities, say the organisers.
Video highlights of the DH and 4X course
Sometimes you can’t beat a bit of good video, and a shufty through YouTube reveals some fine video highlights of the mighty DH course at Fort William, plus one from the 4X course.
Sam Hill rides the DH with a reverse mounted helmet cam (and he even crashes near the beginning!) Watch now.
Greg Minnaar dons a helmet cam for a run at the 2008 World Champs Watch now.
Footage showing the 4X course (couple of years old and the course has changed a little bit for 2009) Watch now.