THOUSANDS of fans lapped up two days of thrilling, adrenaline-fuelled action at Nevis Range as Fort William hosted round three of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
The event reached its conclusion in spectacular fashion on Sunday when American rider Aaron Gwin took the top podium place in the men’s downhill following a tremendous show of power and skill on the challenging Aonach Mor course.
British riders Danny Hart and Gee Atherton - a winner in Fort William in 2010 - did not disappoint the home crowd as they rounded off a remarkable day of racing in second and third place respectively.
French flyer Emmeline Ragot took the top prize in the women’s downhill competition after fending off fierce competition from fans’ favourite Rachel Atherton (GB). With only half a second separating the two female riders, it meant a nail biting finale for everyone gathered at the finish line. French rider Myriam Nicole was third.
An estimated 10,000 people attended the world cup on both days, with Saturday’s warm, sunny weather turning to showery conditions on Sunday.
Celebrating his victory, Aaron Gwin said: "The fans here are awesome and they make this event so incredible.
"They are really knowledgeable and the atmosphere coming down to the finish here is like nowhere else we race."
Runner-up Danny Hart said: "The crowd were great at the bottom.
"When I had my head down, pedalling hard, they were by my side getting me through."
The leading Brit in the women’s downhill, Rachel Atherton, added: "I’m not going to lie, I wanted to win here in Fort William more than ever before, so I’m gutted not to finish first.
"Fort William is a savage track and it kicks my ass every year, so I was really surprised to come first in qualifying on Saturday, but you’ve just got to hold on here and unfortunately I couldn’t quite do the business."
In the 4X Pro Tour final on Saturday, world champion Michael Prokop, of the Czech Republic, claimed victory ahead of German Patrik Bruckner, Dutchman Joost Wichman and fellow Czech Tomas Slavik.
The women’s elite race was won by American Melissa Buhl, with France’s Celine Gros second, Britain’s Suzanne Lacy third, and Holland’s Anneke Beerten fourth.
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup - Fort William
Downhill Final results:
Men: 1 - Aaron Gwin (USA) 4:48.210; 2 - Danny Hart (GB) 4:49.044; 3 - Gee Atherton (GB) 4:50.726.
Women: 1 - Emmeline Ragot (FRA) 5:27.089; 2 - Rachel Atherton (GBR) 5:28.404; 3 - Myriam Nicole (FRA) 5:36.505.