2011 Fort William World Cup launched

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's a flying mountain biker. Two of Scotland's young mountain biking hopefuls, Joe Barnes and Fergus Lamb, descended on Aonach Mor sporting superhero costumes, as they prepare for the return of the the full cast of downhill superheroes to Scotland. The Nevis Range ski area, just outside Fort William, will host the second round of the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill and four cross tour, which will take over the Highland town on June 4-5.

The sport's downhill superheroes, from more than 25 different countries, will be joined by thousands of fans, as they return to the scenic Scottish Highlands for another adrenaline-packed weekend of world-class gravity racing action.

This year's downhill is set to be another thriller as Britain's Gee Atherton, the reigning World Cup overall champion, tries to defend his Fort William World Cup crown. Also racing for the top spot are a string of UK contenders, who all finished in the top fifteen at Fort William last year, including Steve Peat, Josh Bryceland, Marc Beaumont, Brendan Fairclough and Danny Hart.

In the women's downhill there is more British talent, with reigning World Champion Tracy Moseley - a four-time winner at Fort William - taking on Rachel Atherton, who is hungry for victory, having come in a close second to French power-house Sabrina Jonnier at last year's event.

Rising Scottish stars Ben Cathro from Oban and former Junior World Champion Ruaridh Cunningham from Stow, in the Scottish Borders, will also join Barnes and Lamb as they charge down the 2.6km long course to the deafening sound of the home crowd.

Barnes, 22, from Fort William has been racing for seven years. "I can't wait for the Fort William World Cup - the best thing about it is the atmosphere. It's a massive event and you can always count on it having the biggest crowds and the best pits on the circuit."

Lamb, 24, also from Fort William, said, "There's always such a buzz at Fort William. We'll be up against the world's best riders and we really want to make sure Britain's well represented. The more home support the better!"

"We've incredible strength and depth of home-grown downhill talent here in the UK and they'll all be heading to Fort William in search of glory," said Mike Jardine from event organisers Rare Management. "Fort William is one of the most gruelling courses in the world, but the Brits will be ready to prove their superhero status in front of thousands of ecstatic fans."

"The UCI World Cup and Fort William is much more than a top sporting event - it's also a great day out for anyone who wants to get close to some amazing action and enjoy the atmosphere and wide range of other things to see and do in a spectacular location. This is the 10th year of World Cups in Fort William so it's bound to be a bit of a celebration and an unmissable event."

20,000 fans are expected to flock to this year's event. Tickets can be purchased and more information can be found at at www.fortwilliamworldcup.co.uk.

An advance, single day adult pass including mountain gondola access to the course is £19.00, 6-17 year olds pay £10.50 and children aged under six go free. Family tickets are £48.50 (2 adults and 1- 4 children). Weekend tickets are also available.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.