Highlands & Islands

UK success at Fort William mountain bike world cup

Gee Atherton
Image caption Gee Atherton was cheered to victory by the enthusiastic crowd

Hundreds of riders and almost 20,000 spectators gathered near Fort William over the weekend for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.

This event was the second stage of the world downhill series and the third in the international 4X competition.

More than 300 professional riders from 24 nations took part.

The flagship men's downhill event was won by British rider Gee Atherton. His sister Rachel was second in the woman's event, which was won by Sabrina Jonnier of France.

All the World Cup events took place in or around the Nevis Range ski area and the Leanachan Forest.

Riders took to the slopes of Aonach Mor on Friday for training runs ahead of the main events on Saturday and Sunday.

The downhill race on Sunday saw competitors plummet 550ft down the 1.75 mile (2.8km) boulder-strewn course before finishing at the bottom gondola station at the Nevis Range.

Image caption Organisers say the World Cup event is worth millions to the local economy

Speaking after his victory, Gee Atherton said: "I'm the most excited I've ever been about winning an event. It's been a massive goal of mine and it's an amazing catapult into the season for me."

Scottish rider Ben Cathro made it into the final 20 of the men's event, ranking 18th despite problems with his chain during the race.

The annual weekend of racing is estimated to be worth about £2.5m to the local economy.

The Fort William event is one of a series of nine World Cups taking place across Europe and North America, from April to August.

A World Cup Village for the Fort William stage also provided entertainment, music and live events for spectators.

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