Published: 05th May 2024 Images: Scottish Cycling

Wilson powers through the Heather to claim World Cup win on Debut

Heather Wilson (Muc-Off Young Guns) stole the show on Sunday by claiming a fantastic win on her World Cup debut, as Nevis Range played host to another fantastic finals day at the UCI Downhill World Cup.

After an excellent Saturday at Fort William, the Scots had a lot to live up to on Sunday, as Aonach Mor played host to the finals day of the first round of the UCI Downhill World Cup.


Junior Women’s

The fog at the new start ramp at the top of the gondola was as thick as the pea soup served in the adjacent restaurant, as the riders spent the morning doing their practice runs.

Scotland’s Heather Wilson was the penultimate rider down the start ramp after her excellent performance in qualifying.

Her rapid ride down the course saw her take the lead with a fantastic time of 4:56.675, sending the packed Fort William crowd wild.

The Tayside debutant was over three seconds faster than the next best rider. We would later discover that the Scottish champion rode with a flat in the later part of the course!

All that was left was the fast Kiwi Erice van Leuven to go, and it looked very close between the two as the New Zealander went through the first two-time checks. However, the Scot claimed victory, as van Leuven suffered a late puncture just prior to the final motorway section, to round off a perfect debut at a UCI World Cup.

The delighted Scot said straight after her ride:

“It’s amazing! I said to myself at the top ‘just have fun’. So I took my time round the corners, and tried to stay on the bike although somehow I got a flat! I don’t know how! But it’s amazing!”

Junior Men’s

Local hero Daniel Parfitt (BNC Racing) visited the World Cup podium for the first time as he soared to a brilliant third in the Junior Men’s event.

The 17-year-old was the last down the ramp and it was clear that the Fort native was the home favourite with bedsheets and banners cheering Danny P on from the very top of the course.

Parfitt rocketed down the course in a time of 4:16.768, only bettered by the imperious American Asa Vermette and Kiwi Luke Wayman to ensure his place on the World Cup podium.

The Fort rider was ecstatic with his maiden podium:

“It’s a dream come true. Coming here, it’s my home. My only goal on Saturday was to qualify – so when I qualified first I didn’t know what had happened. It should have been more pressure, but I was just chilling.

“I did well and I just wanted to enjoy the day. To be the last one down the hill in my home race was unbelievable!”

Elite Women’s

Phoebe Gale (Canyon CLLCTV) and Mikayla Parton (BNC Racing) were the two Scots aiming for success in the Elite Women’s final.

Gale was the first down the start ramp, having qualified tenth in yesterday’s semi-final. The Scot sat a strong early pace, with a time of 4:52.709, and would have a long wait in the hotseats, reserved for the top three riders.

A strong time by Italian Gloria Scalini would usurp the Scot, who would eventually come seventh, one of her strongest rides since joining the senior ranks in 2023.

Mikayla Parton (BNC Racing) was the fourth rider from last onto the course after her brilliant ride on Saturday evening, and she looked to be continuing that form through the early part of the course, clocking the quickest time at the early time checks.

However, the local rider snagged a tree root prior to the road jump, two-thirds the way down course, which kyboshed her run.

The Scot was able to regain sometime in the Motorway in the final section, but the damage had been done and she claimed ninth place.

The battle for the top step of the podium went right to the wire with World Champion Valentina Holl doing enough to hold off Tahnee Seagrave and Nina Hoffman to claim the World Cup title.

Elite Men’s

If there was a man in demand before the start of racing today, it was Reece Wilson (Trek FR). The 2020 World Champion was back racing for the first time in two years, and after his successful Saturday, the Melrose man was one of the two Scottish hopes heading into the Elite Men’s final.

The Scot was one of the earlier starters and set the already excited home crowd into raptures by topping the timing sheets with 20 riders still to come down the trail. Wilson would be bettered by Irish rider Ronan Dunne but was able to come home comfortably in the top 20 – a 16th place finish in his return to racing.

Wilson was very pleased on his return to racing, as he told Scottish Cycling:

“Honestly, it’s perfect, I couldn’t have asked for much more, it would have been the dream to come here and win, but after two years off the bike, a top 20 in the world, with the competition that’s around right now, is absolutely incredible. I’ll be going home as if I’ve won today, I’m absolutely buzzing.

Scottish national champion Greg Williamson was the final Scot on the course, and he too would go quickest with nine riders left ahead to race ahead of him.

The Madison-Saracen rider would wait for his final placing, but an incredible ride from Frenchman Loic Bruni (Specialized) of 4:04.264 would claim the victory in style. With Williamson coming home in a brilliant seventh – matching his best World Cup result.

Williamson said afterwards that:

“In front of a home crowd it doesn’t get much better than that! A lot of hard work goes into it, to do it here is always special but now I’ve got the rest of the series to try do it as well.”

It’s once again been an amazing spectacle showing what Scotland has to offer, and with a number of excellent performances over the weekend, what an advert it has been for Scottish Downhill.