As a teenager, before that magical age of 17, I used to drag my poor ol' Dad off to remote hillsides around the country as often as possible. Parked in a field, with little more than a burger van and a loud P.A. system, he would be stuck with only a book for company whilst I was pushing-up, and subsequently racing down, steep, wooded, rock-strewn courses. At the end of the day, I would come back to the car, covered in mud (and, more often than not, blood), and we would drive home again. I never was much of a fan of football and the like, but out in the wilds, gravity-fuelled sports were what got me going. As soon as I could drive, every available weekend (as long as I could afford the petrol) saw me disappear off to Shropshire, Wales, or Scotland, meeting up with friends I only ever saw in strange, remote places, covered in mud. Throughout university I rode as much as possible, but eventually sold my downhill bike when I moved to Paris.
It's been a good decade now since I've ridden a proper downhill course. Last year I raced the 10to4 on the slopes of Mount Kenya, but whilst thoroughly exhausting, technically challenging it was not. It's safe to say I am well out of touch with the scene.
But over the weekend, the final round of the national championships—the British Downhill Series—took place on the side of a hill I can now see from my living-room window. The sport has grown up quite a bit since I used to race; many more sponsors, and a proliferation of motorhomes surrounded the grandiose looking finish arena. (My Dad and I used to share a tent.)
I'd never really photographed a race before, either. I was always the one trying desperately to hold on to the bike, particularly in front of the snappers. But it felt strangely familiar as I re-entered this world, hearing the jargon of tyre pressures and suspension set-up.