Monday, June 4th, 2018
“FORT WILLIAM: Are you not entertained!”
Life is all about taking opportunities, how could we pass up the chance to return to race at the iconic Fort William, for round 2 of the UCI Downhill World Cup in front of the amazing Highland’s crowds. Throw in the mix Elliott’s decision to enter his first ever 4x race, plenty of trail shredding and you have an awesome fun weekend.
Entries were secured very late thanks to points from 2017 for CRC-Mavic’s Elliott Heap and Kelan Grant racing under the Irish federation. They joined Nukeproof’s downhill regular Sandra Rubesam. With CRC-Mavic team focusing on racing at the Enduro World Series in 2018, there has been limited/ no opportunity to spend time on the Nukeproof Pulse Downhill bikes. Huge thanks to all the CRC-Mavic team sponsors for the swift turn around on parts to build up the race bikes in very little time. Sram and Rockshox for the awesome new Boxxer DH forks for their bikes and especially Mavic for building a set of very special Deemax 29′ wheels.
With last minute entries secured Elliott dusted off his Pulse he raced to top 25 in 2017 at Val Di Sol and we took the opportunity for Kelan to test a prototype version of the Pulse, modified to accept 29″ wheels (at present there is no planned production, this was just for testing purpose). Sandra was on her Pulse that she had taken to 13th in Round 1 of the world cup.
Thursday was track walk day- to check out the changes made to the Fort William track. the top of the track was classic Fort William, fast, rough and open. lower down, gone were the tricky “muddy” woods, replaced by a rock garden mixed with some sniper roots and new tech line into the road gap. Then into the motorway which was running super fast with the recent heat wave!
As Nukeproof are not an “official elite team” for the Downhill World Cup we were pitting with the 4x Protour teams area. Every year we’ve been at Fort William we love to stay on with 1000’s of other mountain bike fans on Saturday night to watch the 4x show. Fort William is still one of the few World Cups that has a 4x race- as the highlight of the Saturday racing. With a relaxed approach to this weekend, Elliott dropped that he has always wanted to enter to relive his MX racing bar to bar racing past. A few texts to the organisers from the gondola to track walk and entry was secured!
Any excuses to go sideways – Elliott Heap and an EWS spec Mega racing 4x
With no 4x bike, Elliott and mechanic Ewan prepped his Mega 275c (a 180mm travel enduro beast) to take part, fitted with full DH spec Michelin tyres. Not ideal for racing but nothing ventured, nothing gained! After DH practise a swift turn around saw Elliott practising the 4x track (even pedalling to the top instead of taking the uplift) ready for qualifying. Even despite a poor gate (his first ever competitive gate) in qualifying the 4x newbie scored an awesome 11th position (out of 48 racers) and styling it up for the crowd.
Whilst the 4x has always put on an amazing show, Elliott coming over to race 4x added an extra element. The whole 4x crew welcomed the new addition to the gate, Team Manager Nigel Page was so stoked on seeing the shapes Elliott was pulling in practise he cut short a family holiday to come and witness the wildness and bring Elliott a faster rolling rear Michelin tyre! Sram/ Rockshox also reduced the travel of his Lyrik slightly to help de monster his Mega! Could it see the return of more DH racers to compete in both events like the glory days of 4X?
“If there is one thing I can’t stand its talent…. show off the lot of them.” Toby and Dan jokingly commentating on Elliott’s first heat
Boosting jumps ahead in the lead of the 1/16 round
Despite dropping huge amounts of time off the gate (a consequence of racing a EWS spec Mega inc. dropper post and no gate experience) he won the crowd with his impressive riding skills and moves coming from behind. Making passes on insides of corners where no-one else was riding and scrubbing and whipping jumps like Bubba Stewart in MX racing! Elliott won 3 races and finished 2nd in the quarter finals to made it all the way through to the Semi’s. Drawing a tough semi final against some experienced 4x pro’s including the current world champion and Pro tour champion. Despite a battle he didn’t get through that round, but made the small final for the race for the last podium position. By this time the heavens opened and the track turned to ice. Elliott was in 2nd place and went for his signature inside line move on turn 2 but unfortunately his front wheel washed out in the mud and then he went down in the next corner battling and unfortunately hurt his shoulder pretty badly.
Last out the gate, first out the first corner- Elliott Heap
Amazing racing Elliott and it just shows if you have the skills you can ride any bike- Thank you for entertaining the crowd!
“The Swiss army knife” of Fort William, Enduro racer turned DH racer racing 4x
Sandra Rubesam made the long trip from Germany, riding in the new Blackline W Nukeproof ride wear it was awesome to see our kit on a world cup track! All practise she looked fast and smooth, but unfortunately on the super loose surface in the middle of the track a small mistake cost her her speed, crucially just before a gap jump meaning she missed the qualifying cut in 16th place (only 15 women go through to Sundays final).
Sandra representing in the Blackline W ride wear
In the men’s field only 60 riders now qualify into Sundays final and Kelan was still getting to grips with the Pulse Dh bike and the Fort William track, not helped by a cloud burst of rain before he dropped in reducing vision and making the surface unpredictable. In his own words he didn’t push hard enough and was kicking himself that he was only 5 seconds off qualifying. But with no reference point it was an amazing ride considering he was racing against the fastest DH racers in the world. One thing it did do is reignite a passion to get out on the DH bike more as he loved it! (and the fact that you get a uplift to the top of the run!)
Not content with just riding DH, Kelan was out riding after practise to sample some of the awesome Fort William trails with his bother and friends! fair to say they got loose- and had the scars to prove it!
Well done to Elliott, who made it through to Sundays Downhill finals. Despite a error filled run he snuck into the top 60 (in 56th), impressive for such short time on his Pulse. Unfortunately after the crash in the 4x he couldn’t push in the finals as his shoulder was just too weak, but refused to pull out and rolled down and threw some huge whips for the Fort William crowd. Thanks to Marty for taping him up to enable this run!
When you just love riding your bike.
As usual the finals where exciting in front of the die hard capacity mountain biker crowd. A big congratulations to Amaury Pierron for taking his first Elite Mens win and Tahnee Seagrave for smashing the women’s field on home soil. Also a massive congrats to young Reece Wilson from Scotland running the number 81 plate for 4th place in the Elite Mens race.
For the team the results may not have been what they wanted personally, but this weekend was more than just a race and the team loved it! It’s awesome to see pro riders riding bikes because they simply love riding! Thanks to all the No Fuss event staff and Fort William fans for making us feel welcome and arranging us some pit space at last minute. Also Huge Shout out to Fort William legend Alastair McLennan for helping us with accommodation, much appreciated!
Huge shout out to Moritz Langer for the shots of Elliott from the 4x Protour
Kelan Grant @kelangrant
Elliott Heap @ElliottHeap