If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a whole bunch of photos from Red Bull Hardline. This year’s event was closed to spectators but still open to riders and media. Thankfully, I managed to get into the event on that based on this very blog. Who knew that a little slice of internet dedicated to bikes would be suitable enough for a media pass?
There was a fair bit of change between the track this year and the 2019 track, most notably the new drop. It’s insane. A straight fall which was an actual climb down and round for the rest of us. It’s spectacular enough on its own but, considering the distance between that and the step up jump (including the new, larger metal ramp), its crazy. Riders were tucking and literally coming into the step up as fast as they could before hitting the brakes to slow down enough to actually hit the landing after the drop and not overshoot. There are plenty of videos from the build up to the event that show just how mad this group of features is together, although each is huge in its own right.
The rest of the track remained largely unchanged. Some minor differences to a few things, some tree felling, and an extra meter on the road gap. Don’t let that fool you though, the most ‘featureless’ parts of the track are still almost impossible to walk down, never mind ride a bike down. Red Bull TV does its best to cover the event but there’s an incredible amount that gets flattened out on the camera. Take the line into the road gap, for example. On the telly it seems doable. I’ve sat and looked at it and had that though, which I’m sure a few of us have, that I could ride parts of the track. After having walked it three times now, I can categorically say there’s about 15 meters which would be humanly possible. The rest is only passable by those super-human riders who are brave enough to come back each year.
The event as a whole is fantastic. 2019 obviously had the atmosphere which was a little bit lacking this year. Covid. But the organisation was perfect as always. I turned up on race day to capture a little practice before the event started and, after a drive trying to find signal near the campsite, the sat nav took me right there. After an uplift to the top in the back of a land rover, I took up position to grab some shots of that very drop. A white tee for the day was probably the wrong choice as I got covered time and time again in orange dust. The track was really dry and the speed of the riders pulled up a brown fog which took a few seconds to settle. That’s not even mentioning the berms which Brage Vestavik and Brendan Fairclough seemed to particularly enjoy destroying. I snapped as many shots as I could before the riders stopped and headed back to the finish for lunch.
It was at this point that I moved further down to the hip and had lunch before the race started and the marshals all kicked into action again. The next two hours passed extremely quickly as I began my routine of event shooting. Find a composition, wait for a rider, shoot, run to the next spot, find a composition… you get the idea. It’s not my ideal way of shooting the event – ideally I’d love to have a team spread out across the track so that there’s less headless chicken running needed – but it does mean that I can grab a variety of shots. Thankfully, I’d managed to time it perfectly again to be down at the bottom as Bernard Kerr came storming through to take the win.
Writing this little blog, sharing my rides and photos online, and communicating with you has been the door opener to events just like this. It’s taken a dream and pulled it into reality; being able to shoot at Hardline is a real privilege that I’m super grateful to have the opportunity to take part in. Sharing my shots and getting such positive feedback has been a pleasure. Here’s to getting back in 2022 to have a third crack at the event!