Red Bull Hardline is one of the most insane courses out there. If you read the piece I wrote about walking it, hopefully it gave you an impression of just how steep and technical the track is. Actually being able to walk down it with Gee Atherton was an incredible opportunity but a few weeks ago I was also lucky enough to be invited back. Fusion Media, who work with Red Bull, invited me out to photograph the event, complete with Media pass and the access that comes with it.
Needless to say, all other plans went on hold and a trip to Wales was thrown together. Mountain biking is usually something I do either on my own or with my friends – my partner isn’t a rider. She is, however, a photographer too so we decided to go to the event together and shoot the whole thing as a team. Sharing in something like this was perfect; almost a little window into the world of bikes and, although I’m nowhere near even a fraction of a rider like the guys who tackled Hardline, it was great to share the world of mountain biking with her. It won’t surprise you to hear that she thought it was incredible.
On the morning of 15th September, we rose and packed up from the wonderful little Airbnb we’d been staying in. It had been a perfect base with its little kitchen and wood burning fire. About half an hour down the road, through the scenic valleys on the way, was the site of Red Bull Hardline. It looked different in the damp morning fog and with all the cars. After a little bit of persuasion that I really was media, the security let us into the event and we trooped up to the media tent.
Honestly, it was such a surreal experience. As someone who loves photography, I had no concerns about taking the photos but I really didn’t have a clue about the etiquette of the media tent. What made it even more anxiety-inducing was that as we entered the tipi to talk to Ruth, our contact for the day, we had to pass Rachel Atherton and Rob Warner recording a piece for the Red Bull TV broadcast. Trying my best to keep the noise down, we collected our media passes and then headed for the up-lift shuttle. A little wait later and we were in the back of a Landrover, much similar to the one earlier in the year which had taken us to the top, on the way to find a good composition.
The rest of the day was mostly spent setting up angles, getting shots and then talking about how amazed we were that the riders actually made it down the course. Watching them send the incredibly big jumps straight into sections with rocks and roots, with wet ground, was breathtaking. The skill which they handled the bikes was stunning and to be able to see that first hand, capturing photographs of the event was brilliant. It’s certainly something I’ll never forget and I’m really thankful to have been a part of.
We gradually worked our way down the course between runs so that we could capture different parts of the track. Highlights include seeing Kaos Seagrave get up from a crash and cheer at the crowd right before he dropped into the ‘Dirty Ferns’ section and then sending a huge whip right in front of my camera. Gee Atherton launched off the boner log at the last section which perfectly lined up for my shot. And, spoiler, Bernard Kerr taking the win and the reaction from the crowd was perfect.
All in all, I’m really pleased with how the shots came out and I’m absolutely thrilled to have had the opportunity to share Red Bull Hardline’s magic. Maybe next year, I’ll be able to come back and do it all over again?