For any racer, the opportunity to race at World Cup level in their home country will surely rate as one of the pinnacle moments in their career. The extra buzz and support can be both a friend or foe depending on your mentality. For most competing on home soil means riding a track that is in actual fact a fair distance from your actual home, so imagine what would it be like to race a World Cup in the same town you grew up in, went to school in, and still live and work in. Our very own Lachlan Blair has just that very opportunity, although it hasn’t exactly been plain sailing for him in the past:

So I was born in Inverness and lived in Onich all my life which is just down the road from Fort William. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I went to a small school called St Brides which is 3 miles from my house, there was about 20 people in the whole school – its pretty big so it took a while to get to know everyone. Not really, but for high school I went to Lochaber high school which has more like 800 students so it was a bit of a shock going from a school of twenty to a class of twenty.

Living in Fort William there’s a good crew of people riding, I’m part of the Dudes of Hazzard. I snaked my way in there after hanging around the boys over the years. I got myself an intern scheme, a multi year, multi million pound contract with the Dudes. Pretty lucrative. Getting involved in all the boggiest ruts with the boys, it’s always good times. There’s always something to do, the boys are always keen for motorbikes, getting digging in the woods, doing some filming or timed runs. It’s always good to have guys like Joe, Liam, and Ferg, to basically just race against all winter, basically just seeing who can be the fastest down the sketchiest turns, it really sets you up well for a season of racing.

A lot of people complain about the weather where they live but that always brings us boys from Fort William great comedy, we like to bring up the rain charts and compare average rain falls between the area and they’re usually half the average rainfall of Fort William. The tracks here are used to the rain so it never changes, it’s always wet so we’re used to that.

You just have to tough it out and go no matter what the weather, that just means when you go anywhere else it just seems sunny and nice. It improves our overall skills but does mean the idea of going fast round bike park turns is a bit foreign to us, well speed in general really as we are normally going about 3mph between trees in the woods.

In Fort William it’s a really outdoors orientated town so there is always a bit of seasonal work going. In the winter Nevis Range is a ski centre, the same hill as the downhill track and where I work on the lifts. It’s really casual and they’re really relaxed about giving me time off if there’s a winter race I need to do or whatever. I live about half an hour drive from there and so on my commute up the hill in the gondola each day I pass over the track.

Living here means you’re pretty far from everything, it’s at least a 2 hour drive if you want to go to any other riding spots like Dunkeld. The Borders is over 4 hours away so I never really go there. All the riding across Scotland is really diverse but I tend to keep it pretty local.

The Scottish scene is amazing, there’s loads of fast boys in both downhill and enduro. The SDA races are well good, it’s hard to find the time to race them as they usually clash but if all the boys turn up the racing is heated. You get people like Adam Brayton coming up and king Cathro is there just winning them all the time.

In the winter we try plan a little trip with the boys somewhere sunny, this year we went to Finale as James Shirley has a mansion out there so we thought we’d go crash at his, thinking it would be sunny. Well compared to Scotland.

We were there for 10 days and it was wet and cold, even snowing at the top of the hill and everyday we were looking at the weather forecast back home and it was hot and sunny. Not even joking! It was like 10 degrees which is hot for Fort William. You’ll have seen A Slice of British Pie, Tommy C’s little baby. It was pretty cool that we got a section the last two years and got to show them the riding in Fort William. Its cool to perform in front of the camera, get some sketchy moves done. Everyone just turns it up another level when you’re filming so some crazy stuff goes down. It’s cool to have something big like that coming up here.

The first mountainbike race I did was the first year of high school. There was a Highlands XC race type of thing and someone told me that the top 3 people get a computer as a prize so I was pretty stoked on that idea. So I sprinted, almost threw up at the finish line and managed to sneak third in a sprint finish across the line.

Turns out we got a really cheap psycho computer so I was pretty upset after that. After that experience I then decided to save up and get a downhill bike as that meant I didn’t need to pedal as much which seemed like a really good idea! My mum has worked at Nevis Range (the WC venue) most of my life so when the World Cup arrived here she was asked to work in the food hall. I was tagging along and got to see everything that was going on, watching all the people going well fast and as a little toddler I decided it would be pretty awesome to be riding down the hill like Peaty.

The atmosphere is intense and as a little kid you can’t believe it. Being from Fort William you never see very many people so seeing 10,000 people in one place is a serious shock to a young kid. I’ve been every year since, from getting free tickets going with my mum, to school trips, and these days racing now it’s cool to see all the kids from my school.

When I got old enough, so first year junior I wasn't fast enough to get a jersey but I was so keen to do something to do with the WC and managed to get a place course sweeping. So going down the track and making sure all the spectators are off the track before the racers drop in and making sure the track is in good condition basically. It was awesome to get paid to ride the track all weekend and experience the atmosphere. The following year I got a jersey as a junior but that didn’t go particularly well. There was not much pressure back then as a junior you didn’t need to qualify so you knew you were going to be in the finals but I wanted to do a good result anyway.

I was sprinting down the top section and had a good split with 5th before I started getting super sketchy in the rock gardens, and then I remembered I hadn’t checked my tire pressures after putting tires on the day before. So I was swapping out all over the place, then when I checked the pressure at the bottom I found I had 12 PSI in the rear tire. A definite rookie mistake, but I managed to nurse it to the bottom and came 9th in qualifying. So I was like, this is it, I’m going to get on the podium this race. I was keen to do well. I headed up for finals and made sure I’d put in a juicy 40 PSI. Sprinted down the top section, first rock garden and BANG. Got a puncture on basically the first rock. I was then summoned off the track by the marshals. A pretty upsetting way to end the first World Cup experience.

The following year I was first year elite and managed to get myself a GB jersey before swiftly knocking myself out on the last practice run. Then the next day with the weather being so bad we had to be up for 5am which I was not enjoying. I got up there for practice before qualifying and crashed in one of the top turns and took all the skin off one of my knees. Still haven’t found it. So I went up for quali feeling pretty sorry for myself and put down a pretty poor performance and came 82nd. Then the following year was a similar story with my wheel disintegrating in my qualifying run. Last year I tried to get a jersey but I didn’t get one which was a bit upsetting so I had to ask to be a course sweep again. So I went full circle, the first year I course sweeped, the second I got a jersey, third year I had enough UCI points as I’d qualified at other rounds like Cairns, for the fourth year I had to get a jersey and then in my 5th year I had to be a course sweep again as I didn’t get a jersey. Now this is my 6th year and I don’t need a jersey as I have points and I’ll be number 47.

The World Cup at Fort William has one of the longest tracks, it’s pretty physical but there's nothing really that difficult on the track. It’s just fast and rough the whole way down, just flat out the whole time. If I’m honest it’s not really my favourite track and I’ve always struggled there a little bit but I’ve always enjoyed it and the crowd makes it amazing. Some of the other round have better tracks, like Hajfell which was an amazing track but the crowds are never the same. It feels like the crowd is double and the event village is so much bigger and more exciting, it feels like a much bigger event. Being my first World Cup I thought that’s what they were all like but when I went to other rounds I then realised how special the Fort William round is.

The Fort William World Cup track is pretty different to most of the other riding around here. If we go for a casual ride in the woods it's usually just ruts and tight corners in the trees, but the downhill track is just flat out, rough, and straight lines. When you live here you like to ride the gondola but not so much just lapping the track as it ruins bits of your bike. So far this season I’ve only ridden there last week which was my first time on the track since the World Cup last year so I don’t really ride it that much, I prefer to ride all the natural trails in the woods.

This year I’m feeling a lot more confident than I have in the past as racing has been going well this year with a couple of podiums and a good result in Lourdes. I feel like I’ve learned how to ride my bike now, I know what to do in a qualifying run to make the most of it and not just pinball down and not qualify.

Basically so far my racing experiences have not gone well at Fort William. The crowd is awesome, well of the parts of the race runs I’ve managed to complete the crowd has always been awesome! The commentators at the bottom are sick and I’ve become friends with them over the years and being from Fort William they’re always pretty stoked on that and it gets the crowd gets excited. Just a shame I’ve never made it to the finish.

Having the World Cup at home is so practical not only does it save in travel, accommodation etc, but also it makes it super convenient for sorting out luxuries that are very rare for a privateer, making the weekend much more relaxed so I could focus on just the racing. Home luxuries like being able to hassle my mum into cooking me dinner and washing my kit made life incredibly chilled out. This year was especially luxurious, I had amazing support from Top Chief Mr Joe Barnes, he was on hand all weekend making me sandwiches and inspiring me with boss line choice. He also let me use his camper van "The Landship" which the boys from Canyon Factory Racing let us squeeze in next to their pits. Joe Dog's mechanic Craig Miller was also on deck all weekend keeping my bike pristine. Thanks to the boys I got a taste of the full pro experience at this race!

After finishing in the top 80 at Lourdes, I was in group A for the first time in my life! This meant practice was slightly later so no more early mornings, and being in the top 80 meant I got to take part in timed training - which is great for getting a rough idea of how much you need to step up the pace for qualifying, and it had the added bonus of an hours extra practice which was great! Over the years I've memorised it from top to bottom and can picture in my head every rock in all the rock gardens, so to keep the muscles and hands fresh I only done 3 practice runs on Friday including my timed training run. The new section was fairly straight forward so it didn't take me long to get to grips with that either. The woods were a serious challenge with slop and ruts the whole way through which meant it was perfect for me, just the same as the tracks we dig and ride all winter long. I went up with Joe after practice and he hooked me up with some well good ideas for lines to try.

Saturday. Qualifying day. The nerves were really getting to me. I was struggling to eat anything for breakfast as I headed up for practice anxious about how it was all going to go. As soon as I got on the track though all the nerves went away, I felt great on my bike and laid down an almost flawless full run which settled and lingering anxiety, knowing all I had to do was replicate that run and I was confident that would be enough to qualify. The rain came pouring down soon after practice finished but luckily the majority of the track doesn't change a huge amount between the wet and dry, if anything the top section gets better in the wet. It was just the woods that would be sketchier.

The pressure was on to qualify with loads of friends and family floating about I really didn't want to mess it up. I rode really relaxed for the whole top section saving myself to make sure I got the woods clean, this didn't pay off.. I blew my feet off in the woods and ended up running along with my bike and jumping back on to paddle my way through with a few more subsequent sketchy moments, I was really unsure if I had done enough to qualify. With almost 100 people left to come down I went into 33rd leaving me with a really tense wait. Luckily loads of people struggled with the woods and I ended up 69th and safely into the finals. I was stoked to have finally got into the Elite finals at my home World Cup after so many disasters.

After reviewing my line choice for the woods I settled on a safe line through and was able to get it locked down in practice on the Sunday morning. It was now time for the run I had been so desperate to do for so many years, a finals run at Fort William World Cup. It was just as amazing as I'd thought, the crowds were next level with the noise the whole way down including people shouting my name which forced me too ride flat out. There was nothing on my mind except spotting my lines and keeping my fingers off the brakes. I made it to the woods feeling fast and comfortable shifted down to first gear in anticipation of the bogs and rode clean and crucially feet up the whole way through. I knew that was going to be the key to a good race run with the rest of the track being simple in comparison. From there down I was on auto pilot sprinting for the finish doing sketchy scrubs for the spectators and throwing a dirty whip off the visit Scotland arch jump. Even though I crossed the line into 4th the noise was wild. I had beaten my qualifying run time by 12 seconds. I was confident with my run and was expecting to maybe scrape a top 40.

However riders kept coming down outside my time and before I knew it I was looking at a top 30. Then by the end, after tensely watching the live timing and cheering on the boys through the motorway, I realised I had finished 21st. Amazing, and so much better then I was expecting I could do. My friends and family were so happy for me and I was buzzing to have been able to do well with them watching! It was so good having so much support from everyone and I can't thank everyone enough for everything. It was an awesome weekend! I'm now sitting 31st in the series and as I type this I'm on the plane to Leogang back to privateer life and ready to try go fast again this weekend!