The World Cup downhill and enduro racing was sesational in 2023: If you can't remember check out Hurly Burly and The World Stage, two sensational yearbooks charting the best - and worst - moments
Stuck for Christmas gift ideas for that special mountain biker in your life? Or just looking to buy yourself something great for the holiday season, beyond the usual Christmas gift guides? Check out Hurly Burly and The World Stage, two must-have mountain bike yearbooks charting all the action in 2023.
What’s it all about? Each yearbook is 200-odd pages of the World Cup season, with photography by Sven Martin, Sebastian Schieck and Boris Beyer and writers and industry insiders. Best of all, we’ve got an exclusive extract from them, with ten gobsmacking images, complete with explanations from the snappers who took them.
And we’re lucky enough to have a first look at the 10 best images from 2023, as chosen by Sven Martin, Boris Beyer and Seb Schieck…
Morgane Charre, Chatel EDR, France
Shooting enduro racing has its own special set of challenges and rewards. It’s fun because you get to ride your bike that week (albeit with a heavy camera bag) but it can also be extremely stressful. No matter how much you plan it, when race day starts you have to remain flexible and let the circumstances and story unfold and adjust accordingly.
This was shot at the final EDR in Chatel. Media Recce was cancelled because of bad weather, which made planning how and where to shoot each stage challenging, but we managed to get a look at almost all the stages while shooting training. I shot the women in training in the section above this and when I rolled down the stage after that I saw this section which looked much better and decided I’d shoot the race here.
I lucked out with a few of the riders with the backlight catching and highlighting the dust, which is just the cherry on top. With Morgane Charre you already know the style, technique and aggression are going to be perfect. I left the tape in to fully show the gnarly section and it also leads your eye into the frame as well as shows you which way she is headed. She won this round, which makes the shot that much sweeter.
Luke Meir Smith, Maydena EDR, Tasmania, Australia
I shot the women in asection quite far above this but could hear the crowd below me. After the women have come through you have four minutes to pack up, get on your bike, ride to the next spot, stash your bike, find a spot with two angles hopefully, get the cameras out, dial in your settings and then start shooting. Not a lot of time when you know the fastest riders in the world are just behind you.
Since I arrived late to this spot, with most of the other photographers shooting the women here too, the main spot and angle I wanted to shoot from was already full. I had a mild panic but then shifted further down and backed up slightly which revealed some cool framing with the tree and crowd. I lucked out with a bit of nice dusty being highlighted by the sun which was coming and going and my favourite shot from this section ended up being of eventual race winner Luke Meir Smith. Sometimes luck is on your side when shooting.
Jackson Goldstone, Mont St Anne downhill World Cup, Canada
This simple portrait actually means a lot to me. It’s so hard to explain, it was more of an intimate moment between Jackson and myself rather than a photo opportunity, but that being said I am 100% still going to take the shot. This was the only four seconds of stillness and calm after quite a chaotic and wild finish. Jackson had just put down a historical run for the record books under the toughest of race conditions. In this moment we shared I think what he just did finally sunk in. It was the look of a shell shocked soldier. Eyes wide, adrenaline pumping.
World Cup finishes have become increasingly difficult to shoot for photographers this year, much less access at the finish line than ever before and the riders, especially the winners have become increasingly isolated from both fans and photographers right after the race. (Les Gets excluded :-)) It’s been hard to capture the excitement and spontaneous celebrations as riders are promptly whisked away for TV interviews. Thankfully this race ended with a bit of crowd storming the finish area allowing for some organic celebrations to bring there season to a close. This did however make it difficult for me to get to him.
When there is an especially big crowd like this year in MSA I always like to capture the winning rider and the crowd. I was shooting with three cameras here. A super wide one in the VIP stand. A tele zoom to alternate between tight and wide with the action in the final straight with the drop and big double and finish line sprint. Then I have another regular wide angle zoom which I used in this shot after battling my way through security and the wild crowd. I was happy to get to Jackson before “THAT LOOK” had drained from his face. Ironically the unhappy WB/Discovery staffer who violently tackled Jackson right after his run can be seen in the background.
Loic Bruni, Mont St Anne downhill finals, Canada
When you shoot the hip from this angle it’s kind of messy with lift towers and lift lines etc. A pan or speed blur is the best way to hide or lose those distracting elements. Now some pan shots are easier than others. Normally if there is a kind of tweak, scrub or whip it makes it harder because for a pan you need the rider and bike to stay somewhat stable or neutral in order to be sharp while you pan. The helmet and Specialized logos came out sharp and the blurry wheels tell the story of the scrub. (Shot at 1/20 sec at f22 with a 70-200 lens at 100mm – ISO 250)
Interesting fact on Loic, this year he has ridden looser than ever, becoming one the riders you also get great jump shots of. Before he was strictly business on the jumps, speed jumping them. Now he’s one of the exciting ones to watch. Goes to show a rider having fun in the week is also a fast rider.
Vali Höll, Leogang World Cup downhill, Austria
I went up with the lift quite early and set up a remote camera on a tripod for this scenic shot, just before the start of practice. That left me free to shoot another tighter angle in an off-camber section slightly further up the track. From that spot though I could barely see the tripod with my camera and wasn’t sure if it was actually firing over this distance with my transceiver. So it was a bit of a gamble what I would get.
The mountain ranges around Leogang are stunning but you can only incorporate them in your shots in a handful of places. The clouds around the mountain tops were moving pretty quickly, covering large parts of the peaks at some points and then being almost fully gone at othes.
In the end that day we saw Vali Höll finally taking her long awaited first Leogang World Cup win in front of an ecstatic Austrian home crowd. After an exciting finals day of racing, I was going through my photos from the day and was super happy when I came across this shot of Vali in her bright red race kit in front of the scenic mountain ranges from earlier that morning.
Loic Bruni, Loudenvielle World Cup downhill, France
After the dramatic weather chaos at the World Cup round in Andorra that saw Loic Bruni devastated and quite emotional about his result in the unfair weather conditions, the following race in Loudenvielle would bring redemption for Bruni. Just one week later he is standing in front of a big French crowd, visibly enjoying every moment after winning the race and taking over the leader’s jersey at the same time.
This photo was taken shortly after the podium ceremony, after which Loic was rushed to the interview for the TV coverage. I held my camera up on a small extended tripod to be able to look over the TV crew and get a better view of the crowd surrounding them. Seeing Loic being interviewed by Amaury Pierron, who had injured himself badly at the first race of the season and was forced to sit on the side lines all year added even more emotional levels to this whole scene.
Jack Moir, Loudenvielle EDR, France
Often I’m trying to capture the more scenic shots in practice while on race day I would concentrate more on the intensity of racing with tight action or shots with crowds. So for this stage on practice day I picked a more flat but quite flowy top section that offered a variety of scenic views down and across the valley and therefore provided me some options for different angles.
I was quite happy that I was able to get pretty much every one of the top riders in that scenery and switch up some angles like this shot of Jack Moir, as I only managed to see most of them only once or twice that practice day. With its various terrain and long stages the Loudenvielle event was also quite tough and challenging for the riders. After the first half of the season didn’t go Jack Moir’s way he was back on pace in Loudenvielle and was within reach of taking the win here. But with quite small margins between the top riders leading up to the final stage, Moir unfortunately slipped back into sixth overall after a couple mistakes on the last stage.
It’s always tricky at EDR to follow the race, to get into position, to be fast enough and you are always behind. I followed Dan Hearn because he’s good at orientating himself, and we had to bomb down fire roads, cross a main road and it was quite exhausting to get to the spot. But it paid off.
It was a cow field, close to the track and you could shoot it wide or tight. For the girls we had sunset light and dust coming through that was amazing. It looked better though when Richie cut onto the grass to set up for the corner a bit differently. We were hit by quite a few flying rocks when he came through because the corner just in front of this was loose and rocky, but it’s worth it because I was pretty happy with that.
Bernard Kerr, World Champs, Fort William
I felt the most pressure, because it was really pissing down. I was motivated as the finish area is really rewarding, but when the heavy rain started it was nearly impossible, it was too muddy to climb up. But then I said fuck it, i didn’t want to have the same shot for all riders, so I pushed for it. Bernard has the sickest style and this really tells the story here.