I was fortunate enough to be able to photograph the 2017 Mountain Bike World Championships in Cairns, Australia. It was a week long event and proved to be one of the more memorable World Champs of the past few years.
The pressure on Cairns locals Tracey and Mik Hannah was insane. Family, friends and thousands of fans gathered trackside to see their hometown heroes potentially take the win in both Elite Women and Elite Men. Years of hopes and dreams coming down to 3.5 minutes of downhill precision on the dry and dusty jungle course.
After the dust had settled it would be bittersweet for the Aussie contingent; Tracey would slide off the track on a loose off-camber section, hitting her head in the process. She was 8 seconds down after halfway but would gain 6 seconds back to take the bronze medal. The eventual winner was Miranda Miller from Canada, possibly the funnest racer on circuit to be around is now the worlds fastest. Stoked!
Mik Hannah put down an amazing run that would only be beaten by another Specialized Gravity racer; Loic Bruni! He has won in Cairns before and knew where he could make up time on Mik's home track advantage. It was an amazing performance by the Frenchman and the crowd knew it was the best they would see! Emotional moments of joy, heartbreak, elation and frustration all balled up in to one afternoon of Downhill delight. Thanks for the show! I hope to see you all trackside next World Cup season.
A massive thanks to Downhill247 for the support during the week. You can check out their 5 day report here: Downhill247
Enduro mountain bike racing is one of the most rewarding sports I've photographed. It's also probably one of the hardest to capture, an intimate knowledge of the trails and mountain bike expertise is required to keep ahead of the racers throughout the weekend. Riding ahead with camera gear, food, water and a bike repair kit to find locations in time to photograph each unique stage is exhausting but ultimately worth all the effort to capture the most popular form of mountain bike racing.
I've captured and written about 2 National Enduro events which featured at Pinkbike and at [R]evolution MTB and in issue 47 of [R]evolution Magazine. I also captured images for a very unique stand alone Enduro race called Mckayos which was published at Flow Mountain Bike. I'm currently the lead photographer for the Victorian Enduro Tour.
In 2015 and 2016 I competed in The Yak Attack; the worlds highest (and one of the toughest) mountain bike races in Nepal. The event is a stage race that climbs up to 5416m (17770ft) and follows trails into some of the most remote places of Nepal. As a competitor I was able to capture some amazing photographs along the 500km race route through the Himalaya.
Travelling to photograph sporting events takes me to some beautiful places that stand out all by themselves. A selection of these images will be for sale as canvas prints in the near future.
Elephant In The Room was my first solo exhibition in 2011, Hobart, Tasmania. The idea behind the exhibition was to fundraise to relocate an Asian Elephant from a life of cruelty to an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. The exhibition was a huge success and went on to feature positively in National media.
It was also the springboard for my solo bike ride from Melbourne to Cairns (Ride Bikes, Not Elephants) to continue fundraising and complete the project. A detailed website about the 2 year project can be found at www.ridebikesnotelephants.net
Ben Mcilroy is an up and coming Enduro mountain bike racer from Mt Beauty, Victoria. Over the last 2 years he has progressed to be the fastest junior rider in Australia winning both the National Series and the National Championships in 2016. In March 2017 I caught up with Ben to chat about his potential future in the mountain bike world.
How did you get into riding?
Pretty much because of my Dad, when I was about 12 I started showing more interest in racing. I went to a few of the Victorian Enduro events but after a couple of years that series kind of fell apart. I then stared racing the national series.
How many National events have you raced?
My first National year in 2015 I raced three events, Toowoomba, Adelaide, and Canberra and placed 3rd overall for the series.
In 2016 I raced the Bright, Perth and Adelaide National series events winning all 3 and the U19 series overall, I then went onto win U19 National Champs in Adelaide (with a time that would have knocked Troy Brosnan off the elite podium).
How did you end up travelling and racing along side Chris Panozzo (2 time Elite Gravity Enduro Australian champion)?
I first met Chris at a Victorian Enduro state round at Barjarg, I was still like Under 15s or Under 17s and I knew that he was a fast dude, I wanted to hang out with the fast guys so I wanted to hang out with Chris Panozzo.
I remember at Barjarg the shuttles were always a bit delayed, we were hanging out down the bottom for so long that we nearly missed our race runs. When we got to the top, everyone was wondering where we’d been. He was just like “Ah we’ve just been chilling at the bottom.” So that felt pretty cool.
After that he invited me to travel with him to the next round at Narbethong, during that trip we decided not to race any more of the Vic series. I thought that I wouldn’t really continue racing but then Chris invited me to Toowoomba. That was my first national race and from then on we just became mates and he invited me along to all of the races he was doing.
What are your goals for this year, more EWS or is going to be too hard to juggle school?
I’m racing the EWS in New Zealand and in Tasmania but this year I want to finish Year 12 and get out alive, do as much riding as I can and stay fit. It’s probably not the best year to be going into my first EWS because Year 12 takes up such a massive chunk of my time.
Have you got any plans for further studies such as University, or depending on how these 2 EWS events go would you like to chance it and try to become a professional racer?
I haven’t really thought too much about it. Becoming a professional mountain biker would be pretty sick but you sort of do have to have another profession once you come out the other side.
Do you think you’d be able to develop a career and race at the same time?
Yeah, looking at someone like Paul Van Der Ploeg (2013 XCE World Champion and also raised in Mount Beauty) who’s been at University for like forever but at the same time he’s been a professional mountain biker. So it’s possible.
I like Physics so maybe something to do with engineering, I’d love to get involved with building new parts for bikes, making them faster and better. Developing ideas like Shimano’s new electronic gearing, which I’ve just got on my new bike
It’s pretty obvious you like to keep involved with the mountain bike world. Do you feel any pressure from a biking perspective during your final year at school?
There’s so many people helping me and pushing me into the pro mountain bike scene and it’s so easy to get sucked into it and think it’s going to continue to be easy for the rest of my life. I step back and think that it’ll be hard work, but with the right support I could do it. I think it’s important to still have to the love for mountain biking.
Do you think your love for the sport will change if you become a full on racer?
Not really, As much as I enjoy the whole vibe of riding with my mates, hanging out and having a good time. I still really really enjoy the racing aspect of mountain biking, it determines who is the best and everyone wants to be the best at what they do.
Racing has brought mountain biking to where it is today, bikes are lighter and faster and better then ever and racing has played a massive role in that.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Mum and Dad, Chris, Sam and everyone from Shimano.
Ben Would go on to place 12th in the Rotorua EWS and take a spectacular 1st place at the Tasmania EWS cementing his potential for a bright future behind handlebars.
The Buffalo Stampede is an Trail Running Ultra Marathon held every year in Bright, Victoria.
The run is 75km with over 4654m in climbing it is one of Australia's toughest races. Beginning before sunrise to maximise the amount of daylight for the athletes, they must run in the pitch dark through the tricky terrain around Mystic forest before heading up the epic Big Walking trail to Mount Buffalo. After the 42km Marathon distance the athletes are up an altitude of around 1500m and the terrain becomes even trickier with tight tunnels and rock formations to scramble through, under and over. But this is only Halfway!
Fatigue begins to settle in and after hours and hours of physical effort, each trail runner now faces the tough mental challenge to descend the mountain and make the crucial cut off times at each checkpoint. Another 2 monster hill climbs up and over Clearspot and Mystic Hill are required before the finish in Bright.
Sam McCutcheon lead from start to finish in a time of 8hrs 22 minutes, while Christie Hopkins overtook Katherine Mckean to win in a time of 11hrs 29 min.
It was one of the more inspiring events I've photographed, a long day out shooting in the dark, rain and cold before relaxing in the sun at the finish.
On March 29, 2017 Kristoff Allegaert, Mike Hall and Sarah Hammond rode from Omeo up and over Falls Creek. They were the leaders of the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel Race (IPWR), a road time trial race from Perth to Sydney. The 5500km race took the racers through the Nullarbor Plains Desert, the Great Ocean Road and up over the Australian Alps, it truly is an epic race!
All 70 of the competitors left as a group only 12 days ago and dramatically the lead changed for the first time today. Mike caught Kristoff at the top of one the toughest climbs in Australia at Falls Creek.
What promised to be a great battle to Sydney ended in tragedy as only a couple of days later Mike Hall would be hit by a car and killed just south of Canberra. It was a huge shock to everyone who had been following the race and for those who know of Mike. He was a legendary cyclist but more than that he embodied true spirit, the courage to follow dreams and inspire others to do so as well.
These images of these 3 amazing athletes will always inspire me. Be sure to follow next years race over at: IPWR
Late Autumn of 2017 I was invited to shoot a National Round of Cyclocross which turned out to be a perfect blue sky weekend in Mt Beauty and Bright, not the most ideal Cyclocross conditions but a great event to photograph.
If you have an event you'd like to capture, I'd love to be apart of it!
One fine day in Mt Beauty my brother and I shuttled up to the top of Tawonga Gap to tackle the new fire break. It had been cut in for planned burning purposes in Autumn 2017, we decided it need to be tested. Yes, it was steep and fun.