GT Factory Racing’s Downhill team put in another great weekend’s work at The British Downhill Series Round 2 with all three riders grabbing a place on the podium from a stacked field of international talent.
The Fort William track is notoriously gnarly – even in the best of conditions, and this weekend was cold, wet and windy – so much so that seeding was brought forward to Saturday afternoon because of fears that the gondola might have to be closed. The combination of talent, track and the tough conditions that the riders faced this weekend have led to this event being dubbed a “Mini World Cup”
Seeding went well for Taylor in the junior category – he put a clear 3 seconds into Loris Vergier. Marc Beaumont seeded third in the Elite – only 0.8 seconds behind the leader, Danny Hart but Gee went down hard in the top section, sliding out on some wet rocks and going over the bars to land in a nasty, boulder strewn gully.
Gee said “ The riding felt brilliant, I guess I got a bit carried away! I’ve got a few bruises and I’ve grazed my hands, forearms and messed up my right leg a bit but nothing serous – it’ll all come good with a bit of a scrub!”
By Sunday, spells of sunshine between morning showers had allowed the track to dry out a little but the wind had strengthened even further.
Taylor was first up. He’s been nursing a shoulder injury sustained at Combe Sydenham but once he’s on the bike, any thoughts of injury disappear. Taylor put in a strong run but was pipped for the win by 0.3 seconds by Noel Niederberger. He said “It was good to ride the big track before the World Cup next month – I’m happy, I gained a lot, learnt a lot, and it’s always rad to be with the team.”
Because of his qualifying fall Gee was the third man down the hill in the Elite category. He put in a blistering run of 4:47.745 to take the hotseat – and remained there through more than fifty elite riders, only Danny Hart , the last man down could better his time, taking the win by 0.8 secs.
Marc Beaumont put in another strong run to take fifth – only 1.6 secs behind Hart and 0.02 secs behind Greg Minaar in 4th.
ELITE MEN – Sponsored by Schwalbe
1st Danny Hart, Giant Factory Racing 4:46.880
2nd Gee Atherton, GT Factory Racing 4:47.745 (+0.855)
3rd Matthew Simmonds, Chain Reaction Cycles/Nukeproof 4:48.178 (+1.298 )
4th Greg Minnaar, Santa Cruz Syndicate 4:48.460 (+1.580)
5th Marc Beaumont, GT Factory Racing 4:48.482 (+1.602)
6th Josh Bryceland, Santa Cruz Syndicate 4:48.983 (+2.103)
JUNIOR MEN – Sponsored by Fox
1st Noel Niederberger, Gstaad-Scott 5:00.328
2nd Taylor Vernon, GT Factory Racing 5:00.640 (+0.312)
3rd George Gannicott, Dirt Norco Race Team 5:02.417 (+2.089)
4th Innes Graham, MS Mondraker 5:10.114 (+9.786)
5th Gian Luca Vernassa, Devinci Global Racing 5:10.611 (+10.283)
All photos: Laurence Crossman-Emms