This coming weekend (June 6-7) would have seen the running of the fourth round of the 2020 Downhill World Cup in Fort William, but of course, Covid 19 has put a stop to that. Rewind 12 months to one of the most memorable moments from last year’s series. Intense Factory Racing (IFR) team rider Aaron Gwin unfortunately being thrown through the air like a rag doll on the Scottish track less than a minute into his race run.
Aaron had a pretty tricky start to the 2019 season. After a solid sixth place at round 1 in Slovenia he then badly injured his ankle back home in the US just before he was due to fly out to Fort William for round 2. To add insult to injury his race bike was then stolen just before the event from one of the team vans outside the hotel they were staying in. With just days to go a new frame was quickly found via the Intense UK distributors and shipped up to the team in Scotland. Ever the pro, Aaron was traveling from the US with his own personal suspension, so that was one less thing for him and mechanic John Hall to worry about.
Fort William is a terror of a track, ‘Aonach Mor’ abuses both bike and body. It is so physical and brutal. It is enough for most people just to survive riding down the mountain, but to actually race it is a different thing altogether. We all know that the top riders are on another level, but you really see it in Fort William.
If the track doesn’t get you then the weather probably will (2019 was wet… very wet). And then of course there is always the wind to contend with on the upper part of the track before it drops down into the wooded section. Fort William is not for the faint-hearted, and the 2019 running of the race will be one that Aaron and the team will want to forget.
After qualifying in 21st position, and with his heavily strapped damaged ankle, it was almost going to be a case of damage limitation. Get down the hill, score some points, and then move on to rehab and the next round. But Fort William had other ideas. Less than a minute into his race run Aaron had one of the most spectacular and frightening crashes World Cup fans have ever witnessed.
“I lost the rear coming into turn 10 and went full ‘Ricky Bobby’. I’m still a little confused on how this happened but I definitely jacked somethin’ up.”
Even now no one is really quite sure what happened, even Aaron himself. There has been almost forensic investigation into the crash, from professional commentators and armchair fans alike. What seemed to happen was that his rear wheel was just slightly off-line and hooked-up on one of Fort William’s notorious granite boulders or slabs, firing Aaron over the bars… sky, ground… sky, ground… sky, ground! Miraculously Aaron walked away, shaken, but still in one piece and ready to fight another day.
“It’s been a rough week, just gotta laugh at this point and move on. ‘A’ for effort.”
If you want a bike that can handle the type of abuse that Fort William throws up then go and have a look at our awesome M29 (which was actually ridden to second place podium finish in 2017 in Fort William) and M16 downhill machines.