Team ChainReactionCycles.com/Nukeproof raced at the second round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William, Scotland, over the weekend where downhill riders Matti Lehikoinen and Joe Smith finished 13th and 27th, respectively. In their first race back from injury, Matt Simmonds rode to a respectable 52nd place and young Scottish rider Lewis Buchanan came 60th.
In the 4X competition, Lukas Mechura reached the quarter finals, finishing in 15th place while younger brother Michael was knocked out in the Small Final where he was up against the big guns of Jared Graves, Michal Prokop and Romain Salidini.
Fort William once again provided a weekend of high-octane racing with the dry weather encouraging wild on-the-edge riding on the brutal 2.8km long course down the face of Aonach Mor. The improvements on the 4X track provided plenty of overtaking opportunities too - plus some spectacular crashes. The excitement wasn't just reserved for the race track either, with Team Manager Nigel Page having to make a quick dash to his hometown in Liverpool for the birth of his new baby boy. Congrats Nigel!
Sunday's big downhill showdown was truly amazing and it was great to have our full complement of downhill riders back in action too. What better track to test whether Matt and Lewis were ready to return from injury than Fort William…
With 179 of the fastest riders in the world competing for just 80 places in the final, the whole team made it through. What Matt and Lewis had to deal with mentally and physically to make it down into the top 80 in qualifying was pretty tough, but they both made it in. Lewis had a crash in the tricky wooded section and just made it with 78th place and Matt Simmonds rode smart and steady to qualify in 66th. Joe Smith took 34th and Matti Lehikoinen in a great 11th place.
For the finals the track was really rough, dry and sketchy, making the viewing fantastic for the fans! Lewis had a solid run and was riding really well, finishing his first race back in 60th place and the third fastest Junior in the competition.
Matt Simmonds smashed his pedal on the top section of the track and nearly ripped it out of his crank, which made it difficult to pedal properly but finished in an impressive 52nd place. Not a bad result given he broke his knee cap less than two months ago. Team Manager Nigel Page said: "I'm really proud of both of them and they will come on stronger as the season progresses."
Joe Smith had a solid run to place 27th and he's building his confidence moving towards the more technical and steep tracks where he excels. Matti Lehikoinen put in a great effort placing 13th and moving into the top 15 overall. Nigel added: "Matti was looking for a slightly better result than this I know, but only three and a half seconds off the podium on such a long brutal track I think was really a great result and we all know he can do it soon!"
Saturday night produced some of the best 4X race action we've ever seen. Rowan Sorrell and his team have made some great changes to the track, making the races tight and exciting. Some of the moves that were being made had you on the edge of your seat screaming at the huge TV screen.
Michael Mechura in only his third ever World Cup race rode absolutely fantastically, mixing it up and passing the best in the world - including Jared Graves, Michal Prokop and Romain Salidini. "Michael is still a Junior so I think he has an amazing future ahead of him in the sport," said Nigel Page.
His older brother Lukas who placed third at Fort William back in 2009 was also riding amazingly but was eliminated in the quarter finals with a crash. Both Michael and Lukas are right there and big things will happen for them soon. Well done guys, you did the team proud.
Fort William 2011 will go down as one of the best ever World Cup rounds, and we're now looking forward to Leogang this weekend.
Nigel Page added: "Huge congratulations to Danny Hart and Brook MacDonald for their second and third place finishes, showing the young guns are coming for the wins! Well done to Greg Minnaar for another amazing win and Aaron Gwin is something else at the moment.
The Nukeproof Scalps and Snaps proved they are more than up to the job at Fort William.
Thanks to our mechanics Dave and Carl for keeping the bikes running smooth all week; Ryan and Tim for the great food; Vicki for keeping the guys' injuries at bay and Michael and Tina for their help.
Rare Management put on a flawless, amazing race as usual, the crowd were the best in the world again and Freecaster TV did an amazing job of bringing the World Cup to us all live.
You can see the replays of the 4X and DH at https://uk.freecaster.tv/
Bring on round 3 next week in Leogang Austria.
Check out some video edits from the weekend including a tech video with Team Mechanic Dave Garland, plus an analysis of the track from our team riders.
Source: Matt Cole, Chain Reaction Cycles