Fort William is a classic stop on the World Cup tour and the mixed weather and rider fortunes meant it was again a race with drama and varying luck for the top riders. Championship contenders Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) and Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) had qualifying runs they weren't completely happy with Minnaar finishing seventh, and Gwin scoring no points after having two crashes due to front wheel washouts.
Gwin felt that he chose the wrong tire for the conditions on Saturday and was disappointed to concede 18 points to Minnaar, but the main points were up for grabs in the finals on Sunday.
Because of the qualifying result, Gwin started earlier than the main contenders and took the hotseat with a time of 4:48. It was difficult to know if this time would hold for the next hour as the top 20 men came down the hill, or would they push towards Marc Beaumont's qualifier of 4:42.
The lead started to whittle away and was down to three seconds when Danny Hart (Giant) took to the track and got the gap down to 0.6 seconds. With Minnaar crossing the line with a drivetrain mechanical and eventually finishing sixth, it was up to the final two riders from Team GT to knock Gwin from the hotseat, which eventually did not happen.
Gwin took his seventh World Cup win out of 10 starts for Trek World Racing (and a 100 percent podium success rate), with Hart second and Gee Atherton (GT) third. Gwin's World Cup lead is now 85 points.
"I just rode a smooth run. It was hard to judge, but all I knew was that it needed to be smooth. It was pretty nerve-wracking watching all the big guys coming down, and I started to think a podium was likely, but the win was a real surprise. I'm glad to have finally conquered this amazing track! The fans here have been incredible all week."
A closer look at Gwin's bike
Aaron Gwin's Trek World Racing Team Mechanic, Monkey, gave BikeRadar a tour of the Fort William World Cup winner's downhill bike, a 2012 Trek Session 9.9.
"We proved last year that this is a good race bike, so there are not really any changes other than the paint scheme for this year," said Monkey. "This bike will be available to consumers at the end of this year."
The most significant change to Gwin's rig is a switch to Bontrager tires for this season.