A record number of fans attended the 15th year of downhill mountain bike racing in the Scottish Highlands in what is being described as the best ever Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup.
Organiser Rare Management has today revealed almost 22,000 fans attended the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and BUFF® 4X Pro Tour, over the course of the weekend (June 3 – 5), making it the most well attended UCI World Cup in Scotland yet.
Taking place on the uncompromising slopes of Aonach Mor and the Nevis Range, riders and fans enjoyed glorious sunshine as part of a thrilling weekend of mountain bike action which saw Great Britain’s Rachel Atherton and South Africa’s Greg Minnaar storm to victory in the women’s and men’s finals.
As the only UK leg on the UCI World Cup circuit, 8,300 fans watched the BUFF® 4X Pro Tour and downhill qualifying on Saturday (June 4), which was up 23 per cent on last year’s weather affected opening day.
The record for a single day attendance was smashed on the Sunday (June 5), when 10,800 fans crammed into the Nevis Range finish arena, with an atmosphere to match any sporting event, anywhere in the world.
Following the event’s success, the UCI has confirmed that the Mountain Bike World Cup will return to the Scottish Highlands in 2017 on 3 - 4 June.
Event organiser, Mike Jardine, from Rare Management, said: “This year’s Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup has surpassed all of our expectations thanks to the biggest ever crowds, emotional farewells, stunning gravity action and of course the glorious weather.
“The event is a huge celebration of a sport that continues to grow in popularity thanks to the success of home grown riders such as Rachel Atherton who won her third Fort William World Cup title at the event. We’re thrilled by the number of fans from around the world who came out to support all of the elite riders and make 2016 the best we’ve ever experienced in 15 years.”
More than a quarter of a million fans have descended on Fort William since the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup came to the Highlands 14 years ago, delivering a £33m boost to the Highland economy since 2002.
Peter MacFarlane, managing director at the Nevis Range, said: “We were delighted to welcome so many mountain bike fans to the Nevis Range. Not only did we see record numbers of spectators over the weekend, but we also had a record number of enthusiasts stay on beyond the weekend to test their skills on the downhill track when it reopened to the public.
“The event has a massive economic impact on the Lochaber area – the hotels are filled to capacity over the weekend and all the local pubs and restaurants are packed each night. It is one of the busiest weekends of the summer for Fort William.”
The multi-award winning event, which is supported by EventScotland and Highland Council, was the third stage on the UCI World Cup Downhill calendar and this year marked the last competitive appearance of former Downhill World Champion and mountain bike legend, Steve Peat.
Stuart Turner, Head of EventScotland, said: “The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup has been a tremendous success once again for both Fort William and Scotland, attracting impressive crowds eager to catch a glimpse of the world’s best downhill riders. For spectators, the World Cup is second to none in terms of action and excitement, proving why Scotland truly is the perfect stage for major sporting events."
Leader of The Highland Council’s Lochaber Committee, Councillor Thomas MacLennan, said: “As well as being a top sporting event, it’s been a great weekend away for anyone wanting to get close to the action and soak up some of the thrill and buzz of the sport in a spectacular location and I’d like to thank the community for making everyone feel so welcome. A bonus this year was the weather which was hot and sunny and really capped a successful weekend.
“Fort William has developed an international reputation as the spiritual home of the sport, offering some of the best and most gruelling courses in the world. We have been delighted to work with the organisers to make sure the Highlands benefits from the increased number of visitors during the event, as well as showcasing our spectacular scenery to people across the world through the global media coverage the event attracts. The economic benefits are well recognised and have firmly placed the Highlands and Scotland on the world map for mountain biking and the organisers should be congratulated for once again delivering a top world-class event. We look forward to welcoming back competitors, their supporters and spectators.”
To watch all of the highlights from the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup at Fort William 2016, go toredbull.tv or for more information visit www.fortwilliamworldcup.co.uk.